Downtown march draws groups in support of Palestinians over violence in Middle East

Demonstrators gathered at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Ida B. Wells Drive on Wednesday afternoon chanting “Free Palestine.”

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Thousands rally Wednesday on Michigan Avenue near Grant Park in support of Palestinians in the Middle East.

Thousands rally Wednesday on Michigan Avenue near Grant Park in support of Palestinians in the Middle East.

Ashlee Rezin García/Sun-Times

A massive group of demonstrators marched through downtown Wednesday chanting “Free Palestine.” 

The rally was one of two organized this week by the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine, an umbrella organization for a number of Chicago-chapter Palestinian activist and community groups — including American Muslims for Palestine, Students for Justice in Palestine and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network.

The crowd of at least a thousand gathered at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Ida B. Wells Drive Wednesday afternoon, listened to speakers who advocated against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in recent violence in the Middle East and began a two-hour-long march that ended outside the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest at 500 W. Madison St.

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The latest upsurge of violence in the 73-year-long conflict began a month ago in Jerusalem, where Palestinians were faced with heavy-handed Israeli police tactics at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

This, combined with the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers, has escalated the conflict by a series of airstrikes between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“We’ve watched illegal land grab after illegal land grab while the world fell silent. The people of Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem and Gaza said, ‘No more!’ They turned on their phones and said to the world: ‘Are you OK with this?’” said Gloria Imseih Petrelli, co-chair of USPCN. 

“The children and grandchildren of displacement and those that love us will never leave Palestine alone,” she added.

The rally comes amid escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinians at what has been called the worst outbreak of violence between the two groups since a 50-day war back in 2014.

“I’ve been seeing the injustice going on for 70-plus years. My grandma is older than the state of Israel. And it hurts me seeing kids dying, houses being blown up for no reason,” said Sara Ismael, 19, who is a Palestinian living in Chicago. 

The group called on Chicagoans to sign petitions for the families facing evictions, contact their local congressional representatives and advocate to end U.S. funding to Israel.

The Illinois Arab American Community estimates there are about 85,000 Palestinians living in the Chicago area, making up 60% of Chicago’s Arab population.

“As a Chicagoan, my ability to have freedom of speech and freedom to march is a right that I’m born with and grateful for,” said Mona Aburmishan, who is a Palestinian-British-American comedian from Chicago.

“But also a Palestinian American, I grew up both here and in the West Bank, and this is just something that has to end now.”

Contributing: Manny Ramos, Associated Press

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