C-U residents protest for ceasefire in Gaza
Dozens of people attended a rally in Champaign demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to U.S. aid to Israel amid ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces.
The Champaign-Urbana branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Prairie Liberation Center organized the protest as part of a national day of action organized by the “Shut it Down for Palestine” campaign.
Community activists and organizers gave speeches to an audience of around 50 at the start of the protest, before leading attendees to rally through the streets of Champaign. The group grew to around 150 people, organizers said.
One of the speakers was Palestinian-American Dua Aldasouqi, who lives in Champaign. She said pro-Palestinian Americans feel like their voices are going unheard in politics.
“Our representatives are not representing us. We have tried everything to talk to them on a state and federal level to get them to call for a ceasefire,” Aldasouqi said.
At the protest, organizers encouraged attendees to sign the Urbana International Ceasefire Resolution. Local activists introduced the resolution at the Urbana City Council meeting on Jan. 8 where it was met with criticism by Urbana mayor Diane Marlin.
“This is not city business. This is a policy statement reflecting one point of view on a very complicated foreign conflict that is beyond our expertise or knowledge,” Marlin said at the Jan. 8 meeting. “...No matter what position or side one chooses on this issue, it will be causing pain, anguish and hurt for some Urbana residents, and to what end? What impact will this City Council have on the outcome of this conflict? None whatsoever.”
But Aldasouqi and other attendees said they see the resolution as a stepping stone at the city level to getting action on a national level.
If passed, Urbana would join other U.S. cities like Minneapolis, Detroit, Atlanta and Seattle in passing similar resolutions calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and a ceasefire in Gaza.
Since the war started, the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 25,000, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the occupation won’t stop until Israel achieves “complete victory,” NPR reports.
“We [Palestinians] wake up most mornings and most of us — or anybody that has an affiliation with Palestine — goes straight to our phone to see what has happened overnight,” Aldasouqi said. “It’s something that is taking a toll on us mentally and physically.”
Other protesters said they decided to attend the event because of the humanitarian crisis and large number of casualties. The event organizers said they hope a local protest can lead to national impact.
“Protests are a means to an end,” said George Basil, an organizer with the Party of Socialism and Liberation. “Beyond visibility and pressure, they help people realize their collective power.”