Reports from Demonstrations
Beginning the day after the murderous Israeli assault on Gaza began, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in every U.S. state and around the world to demonstration in solidarity with the people of Gaza.
A National Day of Action took place on December 30. The call was issued by the ANSWER Coalition, Muslim American Society Freedom, the National Council of Arab Americans, Free Palestine Alliance, Al-Awda—International Palestine Coalition for the Right of Return and other progressive organizations.
Los Angeles, CA
A total of 5,000 people joined a vibrant protest at the Israeli consulate on busy Wilshire Blvd. Hundreds of Palestinian flags, signs and banners lined both sides of the street for three long city blocks. The massive sidewalks were packed as much as 30-people deep throughout the duration of the nearly four-hour action. Chants like "Free Gaza now!" and "Bombing children is a crime! Free, free Palestine!" rang out.
The protest was militant and overwhelmingly youthful. Palestinian youth took over a nearby multi-level parking garage, waving flags from each floor. People also stood on top of electrical boxes and newspaper stands. The anger directed against U.S.-Israeli war crimes was palpable.
A militant rally capped off the protest. Speakers denounced the war crimes committed by Israel and funded by the U.S. government and championed the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people. The rally was chaired by Muna Coobtee of the ANSWER Coalition and the Free Palestine Alliance. Speakers included Mahmud Ahmad, Al-Awda; Palestinian activist Eyad Kishawi; Preston Wood, ANSWER Coalition; Rana Sharif, Palestinian American Women’s Association; Al Garcia, Alliance for Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines; Jim Lafferty, National Lawyers Guild; Carlos Alvarez, Party for Socialism and Liberation candidate for L.A. Mayor in 2009; and others.
About 100 Zionists came out to spew hate at the massive pro-Palestinian crowd, but they were protected by lines of riot police and had to be escorted from the protest site as the crowd chanted "Racists, go home! Palestine will be free!"
The Los Angeles Police Department came out in full force, dressed in riot gear and armed with "rubber bullet" guns—much like those used by the Israeli Occupation Forces in Palestine. They detained a Palestinian man after they aggressively pushed his wife, but the pro-Palestinian crowd intervened and the cops were forced to release him from custody.
The Los Angeles action took on a regional character. People came from Orange County, Ventura, Long Beach, the San Fernando Valley, and all throughout Los Angeles to attend.
San Francisco, CA
A militant crowd of 10,000 people responded to the ANSWER Coalition’s call for a rally outside of the Israeli consulate in San Francisco to oppose the U.S.-backed Israeli onslaught against the people of Gaza.
In order to prevent Zionist counter-demonstrators from undermining their action, pro-Palestine forces arrived early and rallied on both sides of the street, using picket line formations to protect the areas.
Within one hour, thousands of people had gathered spilling over into the intersection. The minuscule pro-Israel gathering was completely overwhelmed and drowned out by militant chanting.
As the crowd grew unbearably tight, demonstrators began to push against the police barricades. The cops insisted that a march would not be allowed, but were in no position to contain the crowd’s militancy.
At around 6 p.m., thousands of demonstrators surged and broke into the streets. The crowd marched on a long winding route through downtown San Francisco, bringing traffic to a standstill along Market St., Van Ness Ave. and other major thoroughfares. Hundreds of young Palestinians led the march and helped keep it together, leading chants and carrying banners and signs.
The police were clearly unprepared for the mass turnout, completely incapable of stemming the flow of the march. Palestinian youth climbed on top of bus stop shelters, garbage cans and mailboxes to wave Palestinian flags. Several Israeli flags were set ablaze.
A closing rally took place at U.N. Plaza, where Palestinian youth climbed atop the statue of Simon Bolivar waving flags while the crowds chanted. Speakers included Palestinian and Arab American activists, as well as activists and representatives from a number of different organizations, among them the ANSWER Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
The energetic crowd continued to chant until 8:30 p.m.—well after the speakers were done addressing the crowd—showing that they are determined to fight as long as Palestine is under occupation.
A coalition organized a demonstration in front of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. Organizers included the Muslim American Society, Sabeel, the Colorado Muslim Council, a number of local mosques and many more.
The demonstration was called on Dec. 29. A permit was quickly obtained and the word sent out to many individuals and organizations. Though the action was called for 5 p.m., many protesters showed up earlier. According to one demonstrator, police hastily chased demonstrators, but failed to arrest anyone, after an Israeli flag was burned and tossed in the middle of Lincoln Street.
The success of the emergency action on such a short-notice is indicative of the outrage sparked by Israel’s cowardly bombardment of Gaza. Hundreds came out to demonstrate, including families, youth and students.
Signs in the crowd read, "Israel’s gift to Gaza: MURDER," "Stop Attacks on GAZA" and "The World Says NO to Israeli Occupation." Many protesters unfurled and waved large Palestinian flags along with their signs as they stood on the Capitol steps and all along the stretch of Lincoln Street in front of the Capitol building chanting "Free, Free Palestine," "No Justice, No Peace," and "End the Occupation NOW!"
Shortly after 6 p.m., a speaker spoke about the atrocities of the Zionist military, past and present. A mass of people gathered on the Capitol steps chanting and singing in Arabic as drivers honked in support.
The demonstration continued until 7 p.m. despite below-freezing temperature and wind. A prayer will be held in front of the Capitol Jan. 2 at noon and continued civil action in support of the people of Gaza.
Speakers included Mahdi Bray, executive director of Muslim American Society Freedom; Mounzer Sleiman, vice chair of the National of Arab Americans; Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice.
It was fitting that the demonstration should happen outside the State Department. Becker noted: "When they send $15 million every day to Israel to bomb the people of Gaza, they do it in the name of the American people, but do they do it with our consent? Do they do it with our agreement?"
Sleiman made it clear that Democrats are just as responsible as the Republicans. Speaking of Obama, he said: "It’s a shame that he’s still silent. His silence is complicit in accepting the Bush Administration position to continue the siege, continue the killing."
The large, militant crowd marched to the White House chanting, "Free, Free Palestine," drawing honks in support from rush-hour commuters before circling back to the State Department.
About 50 people protested outside of Lockheed-Martin's Hellfire missile plant, including members of Marions for Peace and the Ocala Islamic Center.
Around 600 people came out to an emergency action along a very busy Tampa highway intersection during the rush hour. People traveled from throughout Florida to make the demonstration, which stretched along the highway for two blocks. More than 50 people came from Orlando, including demonstrators who chartered a bus. Some traveled four hours from St. Augustine, with others making the trip from St. Petersburg and Brandon.
The action drew significant media attention. The demonstration was covered by the St Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune—the two major newspapers in the area—four television stations, a popular local radio station, and many photographers.
Local activists told a member of ANSWER Florida that the Muslim and Arab American communities in Tampa had been hesitant to mobilize following 9/11 and the arrest of Palestinian professor Sami al-Arian for purely political reasons. The strong turnout of these communities for the energetic demonstration sent an unambiguous message that they will not let themselves be intimidated in the face of the U.S.-backed Israeli attack on Gaza.
On Dec. 28, with less than 24 hours notice, 700 people came together at a very busy intersection on Michigan Avenue for a rally denouncing the U.S.-backed Israeli massacre in Gaza. ANSWER Chicago joined hands with Palestine Solidarity Group, American Muslims for Palestine, International Solidarity Movement, the Arab American Action Network and other groups to make the action a success.
Militant chants could be heard across the downtown area as demonstrators echoed the outrage sparked across the globe by U.S.-Israeli atrocities. Demonstrators demanded an immediate end to the attacks on Gaza and that the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland be respected. John Beacham, an organizer with ANSWER Chicago, reminded passers-by that the real terrorists are not in Palestine, but in Washington D.C and Israel.
Two days later, hundreds participated in a noontime emergency picket in front of the Israeli consulate. Protesters loudly chanted, "Stop the siege on Gaza now!" A large contingent of Palestinian youth led the picket for more than two hours.
Dozens of organizations are mobilizing for a Jan.2 demonstration at 3 p.m. People will converge on Tribune Plaza at 435 N. Michigan Ave. for a rally and then march to the Israeli consulate. Activists in Chicago will continue to speak out against this injustice and stand in solidarity with Palestinians until Palestine is free.
Louisville Peace Action Community held protests on December 29 and 30:
New Orleans, LA
Almost 300 people came out on December 29 for a large march and rally, which filled the street and was almost a block long. The march was cosponsored by American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New Orleans; INCITE! New Orleans; The Women's Health & Justice Initiative; the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic; The New Orleans Chapter of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; New Orleans Palestine Solidarity; Mayday Nola; PATOIS: The New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival; and Artist In Action.
The march started at the base of Canal St in downtown New Orleans near the French Quarter, marched along Canal Street (the main street in New Orleans) then over to City Hall. The whole time there were spirited chants, led by Palestinian youth from New Orleans.
There were four local tv stations covering the march, plus the local daily newspaper.
In Boston, 200 people rallied in support of the people of Gaza and against the actions of the Israeli and U.S. governments on Dec. 30.
The diverse group that gathered outside the Israeli consulate included families, war veterans, students, and other activists. Several people walking back from work joined the rally. Numerous Palestinian flags were waved high in the air alongside homemade signs, banners and placards.
The genuine solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and the strength of the demonstrators was evident as the crowd responded to counter protesters who stood across the street. Demonstrators braved the cold for almost two hours to march and demand an end to the siege of Gaza. Their chants drowned out the words of hatred from the Zionists.
Chants included: "Long live Palestine," "Resistance is justified when you are occupied," "Long live the Intifada," and "The biggest terrorists in the world today are Israel and the U.S.A." The rally demonstrated that the people of Boston will not stand by silently as the U.S.-backed Israeli state pursues its genocidal policies against our sisters and brothers in Palestine.
Ann Arbor, MI
The demonstration was very successful, with about 65-70 people participating. There were many signs demanding an end to the bombing in Gaza, freedom for Palestine, and an end to the occupation. After a short rally, the group marched on Liberty Street to State Street, down to the Michigan Union, back to Washington Street, and then to the Ann Arbor News, where a delegation went in to request media coverage. The response was that there was no one in the newsroom. We stayed there for half an hour, chanting "A2 News, we are here, where are you?" The march was led by an enthusiastic group of young people who invented great chants along the way.
Thousands of people rallied and marched in Dearborn, Michigan against the barbarous Israeli assault on Gaza.
The event was organized by the Congress of Arab American Organizations, and featured a human chain that stretched for more than eight city blocks along Warren Avenue. The streets of Dearborn were literally lined with Palestinian flags and signs, and the protest was diverse and youthful.
After the successful completion of the human chain action, the crowd began a militant and spirited march up Warren Avenue through the heart of Dearborn. Chants included "Gaza, Gaza don’t cry, Palestine will never die" and "One, two, three, four, stop the killing stop the war! Five, six, seven, eight, Israel is a terror state!" Some protesters carried a makeshift coffin, plastered with slogans and images of Palestinian victims of Israeli violence.
As the action progressed, sadness gave way to militant anger. A scheduled memorial for victims of the Israeli violence was delayed when the crowd continued their increasingly boisterous rally long after its scheduled time. Youth climbed atop street benches, snow banks, and cars, waiving Palestinian flags and chanting: "Free, free Palestine! Long Live Palestine!"
A large group of diverse peace activists—especially large given the blizzard weather—on the afternoon of December 30, and then held a press conference in the hallway in front of her office. Participants included new faces and many young people; people from the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim community; Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) and Anti-War Committee leaders; two different Jewish peace groups; and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) representatives were then let into the Senator's meeting room. When the Senator's staffer initially advised the group that the Senator was too busy to come talk to us, the group decided it would not leave until she came. The staffer tried to get the group to accept for her to just call in on a speaker phone or to schedule another meeting on Friday but finally, apparently fearing "a scene," Senator Klobuchar was forced to appear.
Israeli students attending UNM (University of New Mexico) and CNM (Central New Mexico College) also came to the rally for they are appalled at what their government is doing to the Palestinian people in Gaza.
New York City, NY
"If I could tell the government here one thing, it would be to stop sending weapons to the Israelis," said 11-year-old Huda Shalabi. "We will stand with the people of Gaza and will continue to struggle until Palestine is free."
Shalabi was among thousands who demonstrated in front of the Israeli consulate in New York City on Dec.30 demanding an end to the bombing and blockade of Gaza. The demonstration was organized by the ANSWER Coalition and co-sponsored by Al Awda Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Adalah, Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, New York City Labor Against the War, and Iglesia San Romero de las Americas, among others.
The battle cries of "Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry, Palestine will never die!" and "Viva, Viva Palestina!" rang out through three city blocks. The rally stretched between 41st and 43rd Streets and 2nd Avenue in downtown Manhattan. Across the street, some eight pro-Israel demonstrators were drowned out by the chants of solidarity with the people of Palestine.
Speakers at the rally included ANSWER Youth and Student organizers Frances Villar and Kenny Kamar. Riham Barghouti, from the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, denounced the complicity of the U.S. government, stating that the massacre against the people of Gaza could not be possible without Washington’s aid or consent. Omar Jaber from Al-Awda Palestine Right of Return Coalition also addressed the crowd and chanted in Arabic in defense of the Palestinians’ right to resist.
One Palestinian demonstrator took the microphone and thanked the Black, Latino, Arab, Asian and White community, saying, "The faces I see here tonight give me faith in humanity."
The rally ended with calls for people to continue to come out in protest as long as the U.S. continues its transgressions in the Middle East. Speakers called on participants to organize for the ANSWER Coalition’s March 21 national demonstration on 6th anniversary of the occupation of Iraq.
There was a demonstration on December 30 at 5 pm near the University of Cincinnati. About 60 people attended. It was covered and shown by three of the local TV Channels.
On Monday, December 30, in concert with the national call for action, the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, a local peace group, organized a protest that was attended by about 200 people at a local busy intersection (Central and Secor Aves).
On December 30 approximately 80 people joined together to protest the bombing of Gaza. There was local TV and newspaper media coverage of the event.
An estimated 600-700 people gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Portland on the evening of December 30, 2008, to protest the ongoing massacre of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza. This gathering was part of a worldwide effort to bring these war crimes to an end.
The many chants were diverse and strong, and included "Free, free Palestine, long live Palestine, long live Gaza" and "Stop supporting Israel, Israel out of Gaza now, Israel out of Palestine now."
The crowd marched briefly through downtown Portland, chanting loudly, and arriving back at Terry Schrunk Park for a few brief words.
Sioux Falls, SD
The South Dakota ANSWER Coalition led a demonstration on the morning of Dec. 30 in downtown Sioux Falls. Protesters braved the cold, windy weather to hold a spirited rally. Former U.S. Senator Jim Abourezk attended to lend his support.
Salt Lake City, UT
Approximately 200 Salt Lake City area residents gathered at the downtown Federal Building (U.S. government offices) during the Wednesday, January 31 noon hour to protest Israel's attack on Gaza. An eclectic array of demands on homemade signs included “Stop the Bombing,” “Stop Killing Children,” “We Love Gaza,” “Free Palestine,” “The World Says No to Israeli Occupation,” “Occupation: Wrong for Iraq, Wrong for Palestine,” “End U.S. Funding of Israeli Atrocities,” “Zionism is Racism” and “Oppose U.S. and Israeli Imperialism.” At times most of the crowd was out into the street getting a generally positive response to their signs and chants of "Honk for Peace!"
More than half of the participants were Muslims with a family background in the Middle East, including Palestinian Americans, and many came as families with young children. Others were with the local Palestine solidarity organization Utahns for a Just Peace in the Holy Land (UJPHL), the antiwar Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice (WCPJ) and about 15 young Latin@s from the Brown Berets. The protest was organized in one day. The word spread by telephone and electronically through the Muslim community, local mosques and the Palestine solidarity and antiwar networks.
On two days notice, more than 200 people came out to the emergency protest at the Federal Building. Voices of Palestine initiated the action, and ANSWER Seattle provided significant logistical support.
Demonstrators lined the sidewalk in front of the Federal building during rush hour and many drivers honked in support. The Muslim and Arab American communities were strongly represented, and high school and college students came out in force. The crowd enthusiastically chanted, "Free Free Palestine!"
Between chanting, impromptu speakers— primarily members of the Palestinian community—urged the crowd to go beyond coming out to a protest and continue the process of educating people in the United States about the Palestinian struggle. Protests also took place in Bellingham and Tacoma in Washington State.
On January 31, 25 people attended a candlelight vigil. There was photo and story in Tacoma News Tribune on page 3.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 people attended a demonstration in December 31 in The Hague.
On December 29, hundreds protested in Sheffield:
Between 10,000 and 15,000 people took to the streets of Toronto on Saturday, January 3 in one of the largest protests this city has seen since the February 15, 2003, antiwar demonstrations. It was the one of or the biggest demonstration if solidarity with Palestine ever.