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Grand Rapidians celebrate Mandela Day, circulate petition for Rasmea Odeh

By staff

Tom Burke (center), of Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Grand Rapids, MI – Close to 100 people celebrated Nelson Mandela Day here over the weekend. Some gathered on July 18 to view posters from the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the work of local artists portraying Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou. Local artist Paul Collins shared a large canvas of hands reaching across the world portraying King, Gandhi and Mandela. On July 19, the Institute for Global Education hosted a jazz band, church choir, African dance and the poetry of Maya Angelou.

During a panel discussion on the legacy of Mandela, the speakers and audience compared the struggle opposing white minority rule in South Africa, known as apartheid, and the struggle for Palestinian freedom today. Outside the event, local anti-war activists tabled for Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian American leader and activist. The U.S. government is putting Odeh on trial in Detroit on Sept. 8 in a highly-charged political repression case.

Tom Burke with the Committee to Stop FBI Repression was gathering signatures and quoted Nelson Mandela, “We know too well our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians.”

Burke continued, “Rasmea Odeh won the ‘Nelson Mandela Award: Opposing Israeli apartheid is not a crime!’ last year in Chicago. We know the worldwide solidarity movement helped defeat minority rule in South Africa. The same is true with ending Israeli apartheid. We need to get out and rally to show our solidarity with the Palestinians in their struggle. We need to encourage resistance to oppression. The U.S. needs to stop funding Israeli oppression and war.”

A protest in solidarity with Palestine is planned for July 21 at 4:00 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building in downtown Grand Rapids.

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