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Grand Rapids holds rally and march in solidarity with Palestinian women

By Sam Tunningley

A pro-Palestine march with people holding signs and a banner.

Grand Rapids, MI – A International Women’s Day rally and march to celebrate the resistance of Palestinian women was held this past Sunday, March 10, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The event began at Rosa Parks Circle and finished with a 40-minute march through the entire downtown area.

Cherie Stoll, who organizes with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), hosted the event in front of signs bearing the image of the iconic Palestinian resistance fighter Leila Khaled. Stoll stressed the importance of internationalism, calling out Vice President Kamala Harris for visiting the city last month to talk about reproductive rights while remaining complicit in the assault on women in Gaza.

Stoll reflected on the many contributions women have made to the collective Palestinian resistance, highlighting Rasmea Odeh in particular, who suffered torture in an Israeli prison before emigrating to the United States and becoming a leader in the Arab community of Chicago. Odeh was deported from the U.S. for her activism.

“Odeh is familiar to millions of Palestinians who have not given up organizing for their rights to resistance, equality and return,” said Stoll. “We should celebrate her resistance.”

Other speakers included Anees Aquel of Palestine Solidarity Grand Rapids, Eduardo Montiel of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

Montiel took the time to celebrate his women and queer comrades for their work in the movements, repeating revolutionary Mao Zedong’s famous quote “Women hold up half the sky.” Much of the time, said Montiel, they hold up more.

“I want to thank my comrade Cherie for her organizing in the movement and always standing on the side of the oppressed,” said Montiel to loud applause.

Anees Aqel, a Palestinian organizer in Grand Rapids for years, talked about the inspiring work being done by the resistance all over the world.

“Palestine will free us all,” said Aqel, emphasizing how struggles against the police, against the dismantling of women and LGBTQ rights, and against the genocide and occupation of Palestinians are all linked together.

After the speeches, a long and winding march through downtown Grand Rapids began. The organizers took an unexpected detour to Van Andel arena after coming up on over 1000 people standing in line for Winter Jam, a Christian concert event held annually.

The marchers were met with mixed reception by the attendees, some of whom filmed the protesters and became confrontational. One concertgoer stood directly in the path of the march and tried to obstruct, but he was met with loud chants of “Shame!”

The man became entangled in a banner held by march leaders who refused to be moved. The banner read, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”

After returning to Rosa Parks Circle, the group concluded the march with powerful chants of “Free, free Palestine” and “Up, up with liberation; down, down with occupation!”

The event was organized by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Grand Valley State University’s Students for a Democratic Society chapter and Palestine Solidarity Grand Rapids.

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