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Hundreds Gather in Support of Palestine in Downtown Chicago

Hundreds of Chicagoans gathered Monday to show their support for Palestine and denounce the Israeli government’s recent violence against Palestinians.

The demonstration was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organizations from across Chicago and the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine, which are groups that work to promote peace in Palestine and support the Palestinian people.

The “emergency protest” was organized in response to Israel’s most recent aggression towards Palestinians April 15 at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

More than 150 Palestinians were injured as they threw rocks and fireworks and Israeli forces fired stun grenades and tear gas, the Associated Press reported.

At least 700 hundred people attended the April 18 protest, which began with a rally at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Ida B. Wells Drive, according to the co-chair of SJP Chicago and president of SJP DePaul Mahmoud Awadallah.

The rally included chants led by members of SJP and speeches from representatives of Jewish Voice for Peace, Chicago’s Anti-War Initiative, American Muslims for Palestine, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

Students for Justice in Palestine organizers led chants in support of Palestine, including “Free, free Palestine.”

Rep. Marie Newman (D) also spoke out at the protest against Israeli violence.

“Where humanitarian rights are broken and violated, it should be treated the same in every nation, not just some nations,” Newman said. “This is not about hurting Israeli people. This is about telling their government and their military that it is not okay to hurt people and it is not okay to use U.S. funds or U.S. weapons to hurt Palestinians.

The protestors marched down Michigan Avenue and around the block, Awadallah said, eventually making their way back to the initial intersection.

Nada Khatib, a first-year in Loyola’s School of Law, said as a Palestinian she was raised around protests like this one.

“This is just now honestly an annual thing, especially in the time of Ramadan,” Khatib, 23, said. “When we saw the bombs going off in Al-Aqsa, I kind of sensed that this was coming.”

Israeli police were also deployed at Al-Aqsa mosque last year during Ramadan as Muslim worshippers were holding evening prayers, the Associated Press reported in May 2021. Thousands of Chicago protestors took to the city’s streets in support of Palestine in the following weeks, The Phoenix reported.

Leen Yassine | The Phoenix Loyola law student Nada Khatib said she hopes this protest draws attention to the ongoing Palestinian struggle.

Khatib said she hopes this demonstration continues to bring visibility to the struggle of Palestinians.

“Hopefully just seeing this, hearing what people are saying, draws real attention to what’s going on there,” Khatib said. “It’s not really for governments, it’s for people who are standing around and still refuse to actually see what’s in front of them.”

Jameel Raihani, a senior accounting major at DePaul, attended to show support for his Palestinian friends.

“They’ve taught me a little bit about what they’re families are going through back in their home country and even though I’m not Palestinian, I think that what’s happening is not something that we should tolerate,” Raihani, 22, said.

Raihani said he hopes the protests spread awareness of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

“People that don’t know what’s going on in Palestine may just see the flags or see people out here and then they may just educate themselves on the situation and make their own decisions based off that,” Raihani said.

Maha Khan, a junior neuroscience major at DePaul, said attending the university has exposed her to the Palestinian struggle.

“A lot of my close friends are Palestinian and I learned more about the issues there,” Khan, 21, said. “I had already known about it and shared posts, but I wanted to make sure to physically come and show my support.”

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