Thousands participate in Sheik Jarrah rally downtown to show support for Palestinians amid ongoing Israeli apartheid


Sonal Soni

Protestors gather in the streets downtown, holding signs in solidarity with Palestine.

On May 12, thousands of participants gathered in downtown Chicago as part of a march and rally organized by Chicago’s Coalition for Justice in Palestine. The event was in response to Israel’s continued violence towards Palestinans, specifically following the attacks on Sheikh Jarrah — a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem. 

Ahmad Hassan is a 16-year-old Palestinian and a Chicago resident who attended the march.

“[I wanted to come out to today’s protest] to share a message about Palestine,” Hassan said. “This [apartheid] has been happening for years and years, and still people need to know this message. I’ve been to many Palestinian protests. It feels good to be honest, seeing supporting countries feels really good.”

The rally initially gathered at Congress Plaza where speakers talked about the injustices Palestinians continuously face abroad, specifically Israel threatening the forced eviction of Palestinan families in Sheikh Jarrah. Participants then marched in the streets and made their way to the Israeli consulate on 500 W. Madison St. 

Participants called for the end of Israel’s occupation and the United States’ involvement, chanting “from Palestine to Mexico, apartheid laws have got to go,” and “free free Palestine, free free Sheikh Jarrah.”

Chicago resident and frequent protestor Donovan Harvey, learned about the protest through social media and attended to show his support for Palestinians. 

“I watched the video of Israeli soldiers and police firing into that mosque,” Harvey said. “I’m not an expert on the Israeli occupation or anything but there’s not a whole lot of good reasons for firing into a mosque. There might be stuff I don’t know about, but I know that’s wrong, so I wanted to be here.”

Harvey referred to the attack on the Al Aqsa Mosque on May 10, which resulted in over 300 injured Palestinians, according to Al Jazeera. Harvey also recounted the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd and the continuation of abolitionist discourse in relation to Israel’s colonization, ethnic cleansing, military occupation and apartheid. 

“A lot of the same voices from the previous summer, you know Angela Davis, Gloria Ladson-Billings — all those folks [and] all the writing that we interacted with — they’re writing about Palestine too,” Harvey said. “So interact with those people that we were sharing earlier and then try to center Palestinian voices. Find the people who are on the ground and listen to them too.”

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  • Protestors make their way to the Israeli Consulate, followed by Chicago Police vehicles.

  • Rally participants drive through downtown Chicago, waving Palestinian flags among pedestrians.

  • Protestors hold signs that say “End the occupation” and “Hands off Al-Aqsa” as they march downtown.

  • Protestors begin to march from Congress Plaza to Israeli Consulate.

  • FILE-Protestors wave the Palestinian flag while standing on top of a bus stop.

  • Protestors hold sign that reads “To stand with Palestine is to stand with humanity.”

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Similarly, John Cassel commuted to the rally from Oak Park and has frequented Palestinian solidarity and anti-war protests, including the 1967 march on the Pentagon calling to end the Vietnam War. 

“I really feel an allegiance, an alliance, with Palestinians, and this is just horrible what’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah and the escalation,” Cassel said. “[It’s important] to demonstrate the change in the popular support of the American community and around the world … The sooner the U.S. can break its unconditional commitment to Israel and stand up for Palestinian rights the better off we are.”

As protestors made their way through the city streets, a large police presence followed suit. Once the crowd was stationed outside the Israeli consulate, Chicago police officers formed a barricade between protestors and the building. Despite the amount of police, there did not appear to be any altercations or arrests made. 

“End the financial support for Israeli war crimes,” rally organizers said. “Do your part. End the occupation now.”

While President Joe Biden expressed a desire to de-escalate tensions, he said that Israel has a right to defend itself against the attacks from the Hamas militant group.

“My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later,” Biden said after talking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. “But Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory.”

However, many have criticized the Biden administration’s response, stating the Hamas pales in comparison to Israel’s destructive powers.

Israel has maintained military rule over much of the Palestinian population in the West Bank since 1967, including east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Government policies have long maintained Jewish Israeli control over political power and land. Israeli officials have discriminated against Palestinians through various methods including separating families, evicting people from their homes and in some cases physical violence.

DePaul’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) advertised the rally, encouraging community members to support Palestinians at DePaul and abroad. SJP has continuously advocated for Palestinian solidarity, including addressing the latest wave of violence from Israeli forces.

The Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine will also continue its commitment to supporting and uplifting Palestinian voices by holding another rally on Sunday, May 16. The “Rise Up for Palestine” rally takes place a day after the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba. 

Nakba, arabic for catastrophe, describes the 1948 Israeli war, which uprooted 700,000 Palestinians from their homes, creating the refugee crisis that is still prevalent today. 

The North American Palestinian Youth Movement issued a joint statement regarding Nakba Day.

“To this day, colonization and dispossession remain ongoing processes, where Palestinians continue to endure land theft and encroachments on their basic rights,” the statement reads. “Despite the multiple decades of Zionist brutality, our resilient people remain committed to resisting Zionist settler-colonialism and to the liberation of Palestine.”