University of Minnesota students and other young activists, totaling about 200 people, flooded the streets of downtown Minneapolis Saturday afternoon in an effort to get government officials to discontinue U.S. aide to Israel in its recent conflict with Gaza.
Later that day, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared a unilateral cease fire, ending a 22-day military effort against Hamas. On Sunday, Israeli troops began a gradual withdrawal from southern parts of the Gaza Strip.
Saturday’s protest was a product of collaboration between the Minnesota Coalition for Gaza and the Anti-War Committee.
Nadine Abou-Karam , a fourth-year biology, society and environment student, said the organizations have been working together over break.
“Our goal primarily right now is to get the word out and to have people contact the congressmen for an immediate cease-fire,” she said.
Despite below freezing weather conditions, the protesters convened at Loring Park at 2 p.m. and marched the streets of downtown Minneapolis before returning to the park where speeches were delivered to the crowd. The peaceful demonstration ended around 4:30 p.m.
Pharmacy student Anh Pham recently traveled to the Gaza Strip as a delegate with an international justice group.
“Things were very different and there was extreme poverty,” she said. “Every single day looks like Ground Zero.”
Pham described witnessing a 16-year-old boy with bullet wounds in his back driving an ambulance to help others.
Protest participant Timothee Genod said he thought the citizens of Gaza were being “imprisoned” in their own country.
University student Tracy Molm also participated at the rally. No stranger to activism, Molm led a protest on campus against the war in Iraq late last March.
“We want to stand in solidarity with the people in Gaza,” Molm said. “We are upset that our government is funding assault on Gaza.”
According to multiple news sources, there have been an estimated 1,200 casualties, about half of which are civilians, a number estimated by Palestinian medical officials.
Although Israel has announced a cease-fire, Abou-Karam said Saturday’s protest was only the beginning of the group’s plans, and it will continue to raise awareness and advocate for Gaza citizens.
“We’re going to keep going on with the protest until Gaza has what it needs,” Abou-Karam said.