Two days after a protest shut down N.C. 147 in Durham, several hundred people gathered peacefully in the central plaza of downtown Durham on Saturday morning to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Palestinian flags and protest signs were held in the air from 10 a.m. until about noon, with many different chants that included “Ceasefire is our demand, no more bombs on stolen land.”
The rally was bigger than the protest held Thursday in which anti-war protesters blocked N.C. 147 during rush hour traffic for over two hours.
There were no arrests that night, which drew criticism from top Republican lawmakers, The News & Observer reported.
Saturday’s rally featured singing, poetry, Brazilian samba-style drumming and even coloring pages for children that said, “End apartheid, free Palestine.”
While hundreds assembled peacefully at the CCB Plaza, the Durham Police Department said in a news release that it had obtained arrest warrants against four women involved in Thursday’s protest.
Since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants from Gaza in which over 1,400 Israelis were killed, the Israeli government has vowed to retaliate with force.
Accusations of genocide
A 9-year-old girl on a microphone who said her mother is Palestinian read from a written statement.
“There is a place in Palestine called Gaza and there are one million kids who live in Gaza,” she said. “Israel has been hurting the kids and their schools, churches, hospitals and their homes. It is scary. Kids should be safe.”
Rallygoers lined up at a table to sign a petition demanding that Rep. Valerie Foushee, who represents Durham and Chapel Hill, sign onto a ceasefire resolution in the House of Representatives.
The rally hosted speeches from members of Jewish Voice for Peace, a national Jewish anti-Zionist group.
The local chapter of JVP organized the freeway-blocking protest on Thursday.
“Speaking as a parent, it has been especially traumatizing to see the thousands of children killed by American-made bombs, to see parents wailing after losing their loved ones,” Danya Holtzman, a member of JVP, said in a speech. “Because of our Judaism, we must speak out against the genocide happening in Gaza.”
Since the Oct. 7 attack , over 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including over 3,500 children, The Associated Press reports.
International concern has grown after Israeli airstrikes were reported to have hit a refugee camp where hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed and more were missing, the AP reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that he would not support a “humanitarian pause” in the conflict until the roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas are released.
President Joe Biden has called for a brief halt in the conflict to address a growing humanitarian crisis.
Although there were no signs of a counterprotest Saturday, three people stood near the plaza holding Israeli flags. They left before the rally ended.
“Growing up as Muslim (this is) something you learn about,” said Nishath Fazil, 23. “We learn and see things throughout history ... the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, all of these genocides we only call them genocides until after, why do we never call them (that) before?”