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Minnesota marches on Washington DC for a free Palestine

By Erin Gable

Minnesoatans marching in solidarity with Palestine. | Fight Back! News/staff

Washington DC – 300,000 people marched on Washington DC on November 4 in support of the fight to free Palestine. The MN Anti-War Committee (AWC) organized a bus to take Palestinians and community activists to participate in the historic march. Bus riders boarded a bus for 20 hours on Friday evening, headed to Washington DC with their Palestinian regalia, keffiyehs, Palestinian flags and signs expressing their solidarity with the Palestinians who are under attack.

Since October 7, Palestinians in Gaza have waged a heroic resistance to occupation and have been experiencing what some are calling “another Nakba,” in reference to the forced expulsion of over 700,000 native Palestinians from their homes in 1948. There is a widely accepted consensus among activists, academics and even some politicians that Palestinians are experiencing genocide.

The March on Washington, which started at Freedom Plaza and made its way to the White House on Saturday afternoon, was a demonstration to urge President Biden – now widely referred to as “Genocide Joe” – and his administration to end the illegal Israeli occupation on Palestinian land, end Israel’s impunity, to acknowledge the state-sanctioned massacre a genocide, and to urge Washington to take responsibility for its complicity in the genocide against Palestinians.

The AWC bus trip began with introductions and an opportunity for participants to explain their personal and political motivations for coming on the bus ride. The riders explained how they feel called to denounce the Biden administration and Israel, held space for the Palestinian martyrs, and their own personal and political connection to the U.S. funded genocide. The riders ranged from ages 14 to 84 and included Palestinians, anti-Zionist Jews, students, anti-war activists, climate justice activists, and reproductive justice activists.

Sarah Cohen, an anti-Zionist Jewish activist, said, “I am Jewish, and I support a free Palestine. The liberation of Jews and Palestinians is closely connected, and a lot of Jewish people are being awakened to the fact that Israel doesn’t make us any safer. We are not a people somehow different or superior to other people. We should stay connected and struggle together. It’s a Jewish value to protect life, value culture and land. Israel has acted like it speaks for Jewish people and it’s just not true. We are reclaiming our collective memory and correcting things narrated to us that just aren’t true.”

The Ashkars, a Palestinian family, brought five family members to protest in DC together. Ashraf Ashkar expressed the significance of the trip, “knowing that it is a national march and a historical event and [being able to] tell [my] son that we are part of history in the biggest march for Palestine in the United States.” He also noted that seeing huge numbers in solidarity is really helpful for his parents who are visiting from Palestine to see there is support, including in the U.S., which is Israel’s biggest ally. The youngest Ashkar family member on the AWC bus stated, “Being part of history is a big deal for me at age 13.”

Sabry Wazwaz, a well-known Palestinian American activist in Minnesota, remarked he’s “proud to see so many people from so many different cultures and nationalities while nobody forgot the cause and its urgency.” His daughter, 24, remarked that she has seen the growth in solidarity grow in the last decade, “especially amongst our Jewish brothers and sisters. It felt like an unforgettable moment in history that she is excited to share with her kids in the future.”

Maggie Moynihan, an activist with the MN Abortion Action Committee who is Irish American, said that “Seeing a lot of other Irish people, especially Irish Americans, was great considering that many Irish Americans aren’t connected to their heritage as the first colonized people. And it felt good as Palestinians recognized our Irish flags and treated us like family.”

Sarah Martin, a member of Women Against Military Madness who is 84 years old, marched with the national movement for Palestine on Saturday and has a long history of showing her solidarity with Palestinians that dates back to the 1990s. She had tried to visit Palestine back in 2011 but was barred from doing so by the Israeli authorities. Martin stated, “Things have certainly gotten worse in Palestine as time has gone on. In some ways nothing has changed, in some ways things have changed. What has changed is the degree that the world is so appalled by all of this and opposes Israel’s terrorism. And the ability of the Gazans to persist; it’s a historical marker.”

Hani Hussein is a Kenyan and Somali student that joined AWC on their journey to Washington this weekend. Hussein said “it was liberating to be part of such a big movement.”

Hussein continued, “And to know, that now someone else can still tell you, ‘no, sit down’ while that liberation of life can be taken away is insane to me. How do you teach me right from wrong but skip that [freedom] now?” And the other notable element that Hussein felt important is the acceptance of Islamic culture, and it’s the time seen that “Muslims [be] seen as every other human being,” instead of being made out to be something, a stereotype, fostered in mainstream media.

Meredith Aby has stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people for 23 years through her community activism and her own visit to Gaza in 2002. Aby spoke on stage at the protest on behalf of the AWC and the state of Minnesota to express solidarity with Palestinians.

Aby told the crowd, “We think it’s imperative to be part of a national movement to stand up together to say that the U.S. does not support the ethnic cleansing of Gaza.” She spoke of Minnesota’s solidarity with Palestine, noting that tens of thousands of people in Minnesota have taken to the streets in protests in solidarity with other global protests denouncing Biden as “Genocide Joe.”

Aby demanded the U.S. defund Israel’s war on Palestinians on the federal, state, local levels, and “even the campus level.” She continued, “No – Minnesota does not support weapons, Minnesota does not support apartheid regimes, and we do not support ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.” She recalled shutting down Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum’s office with 11 other people on October 25 after the representative “sold us out” after being a longtime supporter of Palestinians, specifically the protection of Palestinian children, “if you’re a friend to this movement, then you need to be a friend of this movement in its most dire moment.” She concluded with the infamous and historical chant: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Overall, the national demonstration was a historical marker for the United States – and the Palestinian and Muslim communities – showing the role people can play against military and financial intervention as tools to impose genocide.

#MinnesotaMN #Palestine #AWCMN #SDS #Feature