For the second time in one week, hundreds of Chicagoans took to the city’s streets to protest the Israeli government’s recent violence against Palestinians.
The protests were organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine, which are local groups that work to promote peace in Palestine and support the Palestinian people.
An estimated 1,500 people gathered Saturday, April 23 at the intersection of Ida B. Wells Drive and Michigan Avenue in support of Palestine, according to representatives of SJP — days after a demonstration Monday, April 18 drew in at least 700 people, The Phoenix reported.
The Saturday demonstration took place just one day after Israeli forces’ most recent storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem’s “most sensitive holy site,” and the recent violence appears to be the “heaviest-cross-border fighting” since May 2021, the Associated Press reported.
The protest began with a rally, which included speeches from representatives of American Muslims for Palestine, the United States Palestinian Community Network, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Pueblo Sin Fronteras/La Familia Latina Unida, a non-profit immigration advocacy organization.
25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez also spoke out in support of Palestine at the demonstration.
Protestors then marched down Michigan Avenue as SJP members led chants such as “Free, free Palestine” and “Justice is our demand, no peace on stolen land,” eventually making a U-turn back to the initial rally point.
Rama Alsakaji, a 25-year-old living in Oak Park, said she keeps up with SJP organizations on social media to stay updated on events like this one.
“I’m half Palestinian and this cause means a lot to me,” Alsakaji said. “My whole dad’s side of the family was removed [from Palestine] in 1948. … Any time I see an event that I can go to, I try to make time to come.”
She said her goal in attending these protests is to educate “the average person” who doesn’t know about the conflict or is too scared to speak out.
Julian Quiroga, a first-year student in Loyola’s School of Law, said he attended Saturday’s demonstration to advocate for the Palestinian people who have been oppressed by the Israeli state.
“The Colombian people — I’m from Colombia — have always been oppressed by foreign powers so we understand the Palestinian struggle,” Quiroga, 26, said. “Two of my best friends are from Palestine so I understand their struggle and I want to increase their voice. This is a moment to catalyze change for everybody.”
When asked what he hopes comes out of protests like this one, Quiroga said that “the hope is to be heard.”
“Sometimes we forget the lack of freedom that somebody else has because we lose ourselves in the comfort of this society but we have to understand the injustices that are going on right now,” Quiroga said. “We have to show solidarity at least.”
Meryam Elmakoudi, a 17-year-old attending Bennett Day School, said she heard about this protest through the Islamic Community Center of Illinois (6435 W. Belmont Ave.) and encourages others to advocate for the Palestinian cause.
“Just try to come to these types of protests, support Palestinian stores, businesses,” Elmakoudi said. “Just try to get the word out.