Several thousand Bay Area residents rallied and marched through San Francisco on Sunday, protesting Israel’s bloody war on Gaza.
The afternoon protest was organized by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and Arab Youth Organization. Protesters traveled from throughout northern California to participate in what turned out to be the city’s largest pro-Palestinian protest since Israel’s 2008-2009 Cast Lead invasion of Gaza.The demonstrators, who included many Arab Americans and representatives from a wide spectrum of progressive groups, gathered in Justin Herman Plaza to listen to pro-Palestinian speakers before marching down Market Street to Civic Center Plaza chanting slogans like “free, free Palestine” and “stop killing children.”
Along the way, they staged a die-in and read the names of the more than 400 Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli forces during the course of the 12-day offensive targeting Hamas rockets and tunnels, but killing mostly innocent civilians —especially children.
“I’m here in support of the Palestinian and Arab community, and also to protest the atrocities committed by Israel and the US against the Palestinian people,” said Victor Guendulain, a 30-year-old educator who traveled all the way from San Jose, 50 miles (80 km) away. “We’re talking about collective punishment but not only that, we’re talking about genocide.”
“Genocide” was a word uttered liberally throughout the course of the afternoon.
Many protesters had personal connections with Palestine.
“My kids are Palestinian,” said Yolanda Mogannam, a native of Honduras who married a Palestinian. “It breaks my heart. It hurts, angers and upsets me”
Rosemary Salem, a 30-year-old Palestinian American with family in Ramallah, lamented the “innocent people being murdered daily” by Israeli forces in Gaza.
Some of the protesters expressed anger at the Obama administration’s inability or unwillingness to do more to prevent Israel from killing so many innocent people.
Mogannam once campaigned and raised funds for Obama. But she is no longer a supporter.”Since he has not done anything to cease this, I no longer see him as my president until he does something to help the Palestinian people,” she said.
Others placed blame on companies, including Silicon Valley tech firms, who do business with Israel and aid its illegal occupation and settler colonization of Palestine.”
Companies like Hewlett Packard and others that support the Israeli state should be boycotted,” said Vahid Razavi, director of EthicsInTech. “You cannot support apartheid and sell products in the US. There should be consequences for that. We should have some ethics in technology when it comes to that.”
There were numerous self-identified pro-Palestinian Jews participating in the protest, including members of the group Jewish Voice for Peace.
Janet Weil, a member of the feminist anti-war group Code Pink who is also Jewish, said she was marching to “oppose the criminal assault against the entrapped population of Gaza.” Weil said she was also “against the occupation.”
ANSWER Coalition is organizing another pro-Palestine protest. It will take place next Saturday at San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza.