Content warning: this article contains mentions of violence
More than 350 community members gathered in downtown Ann Arbor Saturday afternoon to show support for the Palestinians killed in the Israel-Hamas war. The rally was organized by Ann Arbor community members who were protesting the war, advocating for a ceasefire from both Hamas and Israel. Organizers and attendees called on Ann Arbor and University of Michigan officials to acknowledge the deaths of Palestinian people and divest from companies that provide funding to Israel.
As of Wednesday, over 5,700 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli airstrikes and over 17,000 people have been wounded. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also ordered the cut off of access to food, water and power in the territory. These attacks come after an initial attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 that killed over 1,200 Israeli people and took over 200 as hostages, and the declaration of war on Hamas by Netanyahu on Oct. 8.
On Tuesday, the United Nations and the United States called for an urgent “humanitarian pause” in the Israel-Hamas war to allow medical supplies, food, water and electricity into Gaza. International pressure for a humanitarian pause for emergency aid increased following what Palestinian officials said was the deadliest 24 hours of the war so far, with Israeli airstrikes killing 700 Palestinians in that time.
The rally began at South State and East William Streets, where attendees gathered with signs and organized chants condemning the United States’ support of Israel and advocating for Palestinian liberation. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “Hey Biden what do you say, how many kids have you killed today?” and “No justice no peace” were among the chants.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, LSA senior Salma Hamamy, co-president of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, said the community turnout for the event was inspiring.
“Coming together as a community reminds us that we’re not alone and that the people in Palestine do have a voice and that voice is transcending beyond borders and into the University’s campus,” Hamamy said. “So seeing everyone gather here is really re-energizing for our spirits and for our abilities to continue protests (and) protesting and advocating for Palestinians to stop being bombed and treated like subhumans.”
Aballah Jaber, one of the organizers of the event, spoke with The Daily about the displacement of Palestinians that has taken place as a result of the recent violence in Gaza.
“People have started living in tents right now,” Jabber said. “They have nothing. They have no water, no electricity, no gas, no hospitals. The hospitals they do have are going to turn into cemeteries. And they’re bombing hospitals, tents, children, bombing schools where innocent people are trying to find a place to hide.”
Bashar Hallak, another organizer of the event, told The Daily the event aimed to deliver two messages with the rally. He said the first message was intended for University President Santa Ono in regards to the Oct. 10 statement he released in response to the war. Hundreds of other community members previously protested the statement by gathering outside of Ono’s house on Oct. 13.
“We want to send a message to the president of (the University), who released a statement condemning Palestinian fighters and condemning Palestinian people and standing with Israel, because it’s under attack, as he said, but the Palestinian people are also under attack,” Hallak said. “There’s almost 2,000 kids that died… So I don’t know how you could be a just state when you’re bombing kids and women and kicking them out of their houses.”
The second message at the heart of the event was focused on reaching city officials, according to Hallak.
“We’re going to deliver our message to the city that they need to stand with us,” Hallak said, “There’s people here that they have to represent –– that deserve to have a voice.”
About an hour into the event, organizers led a march through the streets of downtown Ann Arbor to Larcom City Hall. Attendees continued chanting as they surrounded the building, advocating for a ceasefire and divestment from Israel. In front of City Hall, an event organizer and student, who requested to remain anonymous out of fear of professional retaliation, called on city administrators to speak out against Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
“They say that silence is complicity, but the new phrase is that silence is betrayal,” the speaker said. “Our local governments are supposed to represent our interests.”
The speaker also called for the city of Ann Arbor to divest all funds from Israel and emphasized that they do not want their tax dollars to be used to support Israel’s military.
“We’re asking our city council of Ann Arbor to use our voices to be known on a state and national level that we do not support the genocide of our people,” the speaker said. “We do not support the genocide of innocent civilians. We do not support this shelling of our homes, of our hospitals, of our churches. We do not support the death of Palestinians. We support liberation, and we’re asking City Council to do the same.”
As someone with family in Palestine, Jaber said it has been deeply traumatizing to watch violence unfold in Gaza.
“There are no words to describe how I’m feeling right now,” Jabber said. “There’s a lot of people getting killed every day. Every single day. More women and more children are dying every day. Innocent people die and the whole world is turning their face away from us and focusing on one side and humanity for Israelis. How about Palestinians? We’re humans, and we have to have equal human rights.”
Co-editors in chief Shannon Stocking and Kate Weiland can be reached at email@example.com.