Chicago hosts largest Protest for Palestine in United States History
Demonstrators demand an end to Israeli aggression against Palestinians
“We are here today to tell Israel, that it may be killing our brothers and sisters but the world stands with Gaza,” Awad Hamdan, a member of the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine, said to the thousands who gathered in front of the Daley Center in downtown Chicago.
Awad Hamdan and the rest of the Chicago Coalition of Justice for Palestine helped mobilize the largest protest for Palestine in the history of the United States, organizers say. Activists in Chicago returned to the streets July 26 to protest the siege on Gaza and the occupation of Palestine.
Organizers say the demonstration last Saturday attracted approximately 15 thousand supporters, a week after drawing nearly 10 thousand on July 20. The march shut down streets as they walked from Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway to the Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago.
Hatem Abuayyad, Executive Director of Arab American Action Network told reporters and the demonstrators that protests will continue to happen in Chicago until the Palestinians’ demands are met.
“End the siege and killing in Gaza, end the Israeli occupation and colonization, [the] right of return for all Palestinian refugees and their decedents and self-determination and independence in a free, free Palestine,” Abuayyad said.
Israel has killed more than 1,200 and injured more than 6,500 Palestinians during its attacks on Gaza. Large demonstrations have broken out in the West Bank and Tel Aviv as a result. EI reported that Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians during protests in the West Bank including Abu Maria, a human rights defender July 25. http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/human-rights-defender-among-three-palestinians-killed-live-fire-west
Sabri Somira, a long time activist who has been barred from entering the United States in the past because of his Palestinian activism, told the thousands in attendance that they needed to remove politicians like Senator Dick Durbin from office by using their votes[http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-01-25/news/0301250143_1_muslim-community-immigration-officials-sabri-samirah]. Durbin, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee, strongly and publicly supports Israel and has been key in getting Israel more funding from the United States. http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2014/07/senate-defense-bill-doubles-obamas-request-israels-iron-dome/88804/
“The Call today [is] to all leaders, all activists, to all community members. You have to demand [more from] our leaders and organizations. We have to work all together, to think together, create a unified voting block in November,” Somira said.
Elections aren’t for a few months but in the meantime speakers and organizers gave protesters the phone numbers to the White House and to Illinois Senators Dirk Durbin and Mark Kirk’s office. They asked the protestors to give each a call and pressure the US government to stop supporting Israeli Apartheid.
A few days following the Pro Palestinian march that forced the Chicago Police Department to shut down blocks at a time, a Pro Zionist rally was held in front of the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago in support of Israel’s war on Gaza. The Jewish United Fund scheduled the protest during Eid al-Fitr, when many Muslim Americans were dedicating their time to Eid prayer and being with family after the month of Ramadan, however hundreds gathered in response to the Zionist demo July 28.
A few hundred gathered for each protest but as time passed the Pro Palestinian side grew as the Pro Israeli demonstrators dwindled. A few lingered and chanted “Israel Lives” in Hebrew for the remainder of the protest. The Chicago chapter for Jewish Voice for Peace is holding a die-in at Boeing’s offices in downtown the morning of June 30.
As Chicagoans continue plans to demonstrate in support of a sovereign Palestine a few pro Palestinian organizations across the country have helped organized a national March to the White House in support of Gaza August 2.
By: Nader Ihmoud