More than a thousand people gathered in downtown Raleigh on Saturday afternoon to protest the displacement of Palestinians from their homes decades ago and the escalating tensions and violence in Israel and Palestinian territories today.
The rally, organized by the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) Coalition and Muslims for Social Justice, began at Moore Square and led to a march through several blocks downtown, including a stop at the Wake County Justice Center. “Free, free Palestine,” people chanted at Moore Square and throughout the march.
Among the crowd on the sunny and hot afternoon were several families with children. Though Gov. Roy Cooper has lifted the statewide mask mandate, many people continued to wear masks in the crowd. About half of North Carolinians are vaccinated.
Samah and Zine Hamoudi, who live in Raleigh, came to the rally at Moore Square with their two young daughters.
Zine Hamoudi, who is from Algeria, said they came out to share their opinions, that the oppression of Palestinians “is not something new, it’s been going on for 70 years now. Also, to hopefully have the U.S. officials will stop this blind support of Israel against the Palestinians.”
“We all want peace, but peace has to be fair, you know. Being unfair will not bring justice and will not bring peace,” he said.
Nawwaf Said of Cary said he joined the march to support Palestinian rights.
“The Israel apartheid system is stealing our land and confiscating Palestinian homes,” Said said. “I’m here to support the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and end Israeli occupation.” Said said he lived under occupation for 18 years and has lived here the past 40 years.
Also at the rally and march was Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, who came with her husband and parents. As she walked, Allam said she was there “because Palestine has been oppressed for far too long.” Allam decried what she said was U.S. taxpayer support for “ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and murder of children.”
“North Carolinians need to reach out to their members of Congress and speak up for Palestinian people,” she said.
The march took place on the annual observance that Palestinians and their supporters call Nakba Day, to remember the displacement of Palestinians as Israel became an independent country in 1948. Nakba Day falls on May 15, the day after Israeli independence day.
But the event had added meaning as the long-simmering tensions between Palestinians and Israelis erupted in violence this week. The conflict began with violent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
The conflict widened and intensified all week. Palestinians fired rockets from Gaza into Israel which responded with airstrikes that have leveled buildings and killed dozens in Gaza. Israel says it is targeting the militant group Hamas but has hit civilian areas, including on Saturday a tower in Gaza City that housed media outlets that included The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, according to The New York Times.