ANN ARBOR — Some 3,000 protesters rallied and marched in downtown Ann Arbor last Saturday, May 22, to demand justice for the ongoing state-sanctioned attacks by Israel on the Palestinian people.
Despite a ceasefire declared between the Israeli Occupation Forces and Hamas leaders, Israel immediately violated the armistice when the Israeli police and settlers stormed into the Al-Aqsa mosque and brutally attacked Palestinian prayer-goers during Friday prayer. On Sunday, the Middle East Eye reported Israeli settlers and security forces stormed the courtyards of al-Aqsa.
Eleven days of bloodshed in Gaza from powerful Israeli airstrikes have left 248 people dead, including 66 children, and wounded 1,948 others, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Some 91,000 Palestinians have been displaced, as Israel targeted residential and commercial buildings indiscriminately, under the guise of hitting Hamas targets.
Video: Rally for Palestine in Ann Arbor, Saturday, May 22, captured by Rasha Almulaiki/The Arab American News
The spirited crowd of local student activists, Arab American community leaders and other supporters gathered at Ann Arbor City Hall, many wearing black, white and red keffiyehs and raising up dozens of protest signs, banners and Palestinian flags.
Ann Arbor police reported this was the largest rally held in Ann Arbor so far this year. Saturday’s gathering is the latest of some six protests organized against Israeli aggression on Palestinians within the last week.
Several community groups continue to co-organize protests for Palestine
The event was organized by Amer Zahr, president of the New Generation for Palestine (NGP); a local activist named Bilal; Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote Michigan (APIA-MI); the U.S. Palestinian Committee Network (USPCN); Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO); Students Allied For Freedom and Equality (SAFE); the United Humanitarian Foundation (UHF); The Arab American News and other organizations.
“President Biden boasts unwavering support for Israel,” Zahr kicked off the rally as the crowd booed in response. “Whatever he does every day and taking down all (Palestinian) high rises, he was saying that the Israelis are not overreacting.
“So we are here to say to him and every politician that says that they stand with Israel, ‘we see you and we’re watching you. We know what it means when you say Israel has a right to self-defense. What about the Palestinians’ right to self-defense?’ They try to make this stuff complicated on the news. It’s not complicated: You go to a Black Lives Matter rally, you see a Palestinian flag. You go to a Trump rally, you see an Israeli flag.”
Above: Rally for Palestine in Ann Arbor, Saturday, May 22. Photos: Rasha Almulaiki/The Arab American News
You know there was supposed to be a ceasefire and yesterday, the holy mosque was bombarded by Israeli troops. For years, Israel has hid their narrative of what’s going on here. We’re going to continue to fight until there is a free Palestine — Mohammed Furrha (Sandbox organizer)
A host of speakers addressed the crowd before the march, including 2018 gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed; Eman Ahmed, principal of Salina Intermediate School in Dearborn’s Southend; Lexi Zeidan, a Palestinian Christian graduate student at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor Ross School of Business and Mohammed Furrha, organizer from Sandbox, a Palestinian-led group of local activists, among others.
“We are here to fight for what’s right and shed light on what’s going on,” Furrha said. “You know there was supposed to be a ceasefire and yesterday, the holy mosque was bombarded by Israeli troops. For years, Israel has hid their narrative of what’s going on here. We’re going to continue to fight until there is a free Palestine.”
Ahmad Hasan, an Ann Arbor resident and Palestinian, joined the stage with his grandmother, Khadija Hasan. Hassan said his grandmother is from Jerusalem and was born in 1942, “older than the 1948 Nakba”, the Palestinian catastrophe that began the permanent displacement and dispossession of the Palestine people onset by the creation of the apartheid state of Israel.
Ann Arbor City Council member Ali Ramlawi (D-Fifth Ward) came to the protest to “stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters throughout the world standing for human rights.” Ramlawi said, “This is one area that City Council has not had the courage to take up yet. They are afraid to take this issue up.
This is one area that City Council has not had the courage to take up yet. They are afraid to take this issue up — Ann Arbor City Council member Ali Ramlawi (D- Fifth Ward)
“We talk about human rights almost every single week and yet we cannot bring up the Palestinian issue and that needs to stop. The gagging of folks to talk about this in a free and honest way needs to begin.”
Last month, City Council member Kathy Griswold (D-Second Ward) sponsored a resolution titled “Resolution for the City of Ann Arbor to Hold a Community Conversation about the Palestinian People and Palestinian-Americans.” The resolution was set to be on the Council’s agenda earlier this month and is currently being tabled.
Local Social Justice Organizations attended in “Solidarity” for Palestine
Solidarity means to understand that while we may not be exactly the same, we do have the same roots of oppression that stems from White supremacy, imperialism and capitalism. And that if one person is oppressed that means we’re all oppressed — Jordan Weber (Detroit Will Breathe organizer)
Local social justice organizations showed up in solidarity with the local liberation action for Palestine, including Washtenaw Reds and Detroit Will Breathe.
“We are here to stand in solidarity with the citizens of Palestine to continue to stand against Israeli apartheid and occupation and evictions and displacement of innocent Palestinian people,” said Jordan Weber, organizer with Detroit Will Breathe.
“Solidarity means to understand that while we may not be exactly the same, we do have the same roots of oppression that stems from White supremacy, imperialism and capitalism. And that if one person is oppressed that means we’re all oppressed.”
The throng of demonstrators marched down the busy streets of downtown Ann Arbor, chanting “Free Palestine” and “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go.”