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Minneapolis protesters occupy intersection for Palestinian Land Day

By Wyatt Miller

Minneapolis Land Day protest takes to the streets. | Fight Back! News/Sabry Wazwaz

Minneapolis – On March 30, around 2500 protesters gathered along Lake Street where it crosses a narrow isthmus between Lake of the Isles and Bde Maka Ska in the Chain of Lakes. Organized by the local Free Palestine Coalition, the action marked Land Day, which commemorates the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation and land theft.

Despite intimidation attempts by Minneapolis police, protesters took the street and marched to the Lake Street/Excelsior Boulevard interchange, which forms a major bottleneck for traffic heading to and from the upscale western suburbs of the Twin Cities. The crowd took over and occupied the intersection. Some stranded motorists left their vehicles and joined the protest. Speeches by Palestinian activists and others took place before and after the march, as well as during the road shutdown.

Land Day began on March 30, 1976, when Israeli occupation forces, the IDF, murdered six Palestinian citizens of Israel who were protesting new confiscations of Palestinian land. Since then, the day has been commemorated by Palestinians and the solidarity movement as a time to reaffirm the right of Palestinians to return to their land stolen by the Zionist occupation.

In 2018, Land Day also marked the beginning of the Great March of Return protests in Gaza, which saw hundreds of unarmed Palestinians killed and thousands more injured by IDF snipers.

Fight Back! News/Sabry Wazwaz

Taher Herzallah of American Muslims for Palestine explained, “For Palestinians, our land does not mean resource extraction. Our land does not mean numbers and spreadsheets, profits and margins. Our land is what gives us life, and we are what give our land life. This is something the Zionists will never understand.”

The event featured special guest Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian American lawyer, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, and organizer of freedom flotillas that attempt to bypass Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza. “Israel has spent decades trying to tear us apart. And we still say no. They continue this apartheid, continually confiscating land, not only in the West Bank but inside ’48.”

Speakers also drew attention to the struggle for Land Back waged by indigenous peoples inside the United States borders. At the protest, nearby Bde Maka Ska served as a symbol of that struggle, having had its name changed in 2018 from Lake Calhoun – named for notorious American slaver John C. Calhoun – back to its original Dakota name.

Gabriela Diaz, alumni of the American Indian Studies program at the University of Minnesota, said, “Pacific Islanders, Palestinians and American Indians have many shared experiences as global indigenous First Peoples. We have suffered incommensurable loss under Western imperialism and colonization. Dispossession, environmental desecration, climate crises, land theft, nuclear testing, settler and other kinds of colonialisms, and the destruction of the things closest to our hearts, are just a few of the things that tie us together.”

Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg of Jewish Voice for Peace-Twin Cities spoke, “I wanted to learn my people’s history before Zionism,” she said. “I felt in my core that I had inherited a tradition that honored life and interconnectedness, and that Zionism was a manipulation of our trauma and oppression, and a system of supremacy that at its core was not Jewish.”

The protest came days after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution ordering an immediate, unconditional ceasefire in Gaza. The United States, which abstained from voting on the resolution, characterized the resolution as “non-binding,” while Israel’s foreign minister declared, “Israel will not cease fire.” According to international law, a resolution of the Security Council is binding on all United Nations member states.

As of press time, over 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, have been killed by Israel since October, according to the health ministry. Recent weeks have seen famine taking hold in parts of Gaza as Israel’s siege on basic supplies continues, along with renewed IDF raids on several of Gaza’s hospital complexes.

“We know that a ceasefire is the bare minimum. We must continue to demand a total dismantling of the settler-colonial apartheid state,” Arraf told the protest. “Because Biden wants our vote, he tells us that he’s trying to protect civilians – while sending Israel bunker-buster bombs that demolish entire neighborhoods. We will not be fooled.”

Despite Israel’s ongoing genocide, Herzallah was optimistic of eventual victory for the Palestinian resistance, saying, “What we are doing today, and what Gaza is doing today, is showing the world that there is an alternative: that justice can be brought by the people.”

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