Thousands of demonstrators marched just over a mile May 12 to denounce the Israeli government’s recent violence against the Palestinian people.
The protest began in Grant Park, where organizers rallied supporters, before the group made its way through Chicago’s downtown area.
Hatem Abudayyeh, the national chair of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), said the purpose of the rally was to help make people in the United States aware of what’s going on in Palestine.
“We wanna help educate folks,” Abudayyeh said. “[So] they understand why ten thousand people would be downtown with Palestinian flags, chanting and marching in support of Palestinian rights.”
Over the last several days, the decades-long conflict between Israel and Hamas, a militant Palestinian group, has heightened to its worst point since a 50-day war in 2014, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Israel has displaced Arab populations within its borders and in the territories near it for years, though the most recent protests have been over evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, the New York Times reported. The East Jerusalem neighborhood has become a microcosm of the ongoing issue and sparked Palestinians in Israel to protest.
The most recent physical strife between the two nations was started by clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam. Thousands of demonstrators stayed to protest after May 7 services at the mosque and police intervened. During the confrontation between police and protesters, 136 demonstrators were injured — including 83 who were hospitalized — as well as six officers, the AP reported.
A night of rocket-fire exchanges followed the May 7 clashes, which then escalated to Israeli airstrikes in Palestine after a missile fired from Gaza killed one citizen and seriously injured another, the AP reported.
Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza have killed 67 Palestinians, including 16 children, and wounded more than 300. In response to the airstrikes, Hamas has fired about 1,500 rockets at various locations in Israel, killing six Israelis, including one child, Al Jazeera reported.
The march and rally were organized by the Chicago chapter of the Coalition for Justice in Palestine, which consists of the USPCN, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Palestinian American Community Center, Palestinian American Council, Al-Nahda Center and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
The group set up buses to bring in supporters from around the Chicago area — including Bridgeview, Wheaton and Orland Park — which helped to increase the number of supporters at the march.
Naveen Husein, a protester at the May 12 rally in Chicago, said the number of people who showed up made her emotional.
“It brought me to tears honestly,” the 18-year-old said. “Just to see all the Palestinians and all the supporters come together. … It warms my heart. It was just beautiful.”
The protesters ended their demonstration in front of Ogilvie Transportation Center (500 W. Madison St.) where organizers thanked the crowd, announced their intention to hold more protests and dispersed the crowd.
“We won’t stop until Palestine is free,” Muhammad Sankari, a member of USPCN, told the crowd at Ogilvie through a PA system. “And after we free Palestine, all of us will be at the liberation rally in our capital.”