Protesters gather on the streets of Los Angeles, California amongst recent events between Israel and Palestine Yasmine Atta/Courtesy
Protestors use their freedom to protest by gathering globally to vocalize their thoughts on recent events between Israel and Palestine
Around 25,000 protesters gathered on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles on May 15, rallying against the Israeli military’s air missile strikes launched to the Gaza strip. Everyone in attendance prepared for the rally with posters, Palestinian attire and their voices as the recent events in Jerusalem have sparked an uproar worldwide.
The media attention started a little over a month ago, with news of violence increasing on the Gaza strip during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. In early May, an Israeli missile strike on Gaza left 122 men, women and children dead in Palestine. As time continues to pass, the death toll continues to rise, which sparked an international movement where protesters gather worldwide, showing their sympathy for the lives lost.
Many people of Palestinian American protestors showed up on Wilshire Boulevard in solidarity with their country. Subhiya Khalil, a protester on the scene, explained why this event meant so much to her.
“Palestine is where my entire family tree came from,” Khalil said. “Everyone’s patience has been tested over these past few weeks, and I think enough is enough. No child should have to worry about dying at any moment.”
The total number of casualties involving Palestinian children has reached 52 in the past week, with the total number of Israeli children casualties reaching a total of two. According to USA Today, a total of 40% of Gaza’s population are aged 14 and under.
The casualties of not only children but civilians as a whole seemed to be a critical factor in the emotions shown by protestors. At the protest, chants like, “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry,” and “Palestine will never die” were shouted as demonstrators walked along the street.
Another protestor with Khalil was her cousin, Ragda Khalil. The two held a poster that read, “enough is enough,” and the Palestine flag. As Subhiya’s reason for attending the protest was for the sake of the civilians, her cousin Ragda explains how the Israeli government motivated her attendance.
“The Israeli Government can’t get away with this anymore,” Ragda Khalil said. “This ethnic cleansing has been going on since the 1940s, and they will stop at nothing to fully take over Palestine. There is a strong difference between being anti-Semitic and holding a country accountable for their actions.”
Nadia Najwa (left), Subhiya Khalil (middle) and Ragda Khalil (right) holding posters and flags at the event. Yasmine Atta/Courtesy
With large amounts of protesters and social media users speaking on Israel and Palestine, certain people with no ethnic connection to Jerusalem are enduring experiences that have affected their personal life.
Natalie Davies, a human rights activist on social media, explains how the events have led to many debates with her followers. Davies explains even further by saying the debates have turned political when she believes it’s not in the political category. In some cases, the debates have cost her some friendships due to her thoughts on the matter.
“Activism on Instagram allows for more people to be educated on today’s conflicts,” Davies said. “However, it causes people’s opinions to be more out in the open and up for debate. These ‘political’ debates tend to show people’s true colors and ultimately end friendships considering the debate is usually about human rights.”
Davies also discusses how there are certain times when her followers aren’t motivated to speak on Israel and Palestine due to the people they idolize. Her theory behind that statement is the “lack of awareness” from big-time influencers in the entertainment world.
“I think it’s easy and a privilege to be able to ignore what’s going on in the world because it’s not affecting us directly,” Davies said. “It is kind of popular for people, especially celebrities, to try to remain neutral on topics that don’t have a neutral solution. This causes fewer people to educate themselves and stay ignorant on these conflicts – because their favorite celebrity didn’t have to.”
Although there are people who do not speak on the matter or do not agree with certain views, the media’s attention ignited many people to make the drive to Los Angeles and show their stance on the subject. The protest reached enough participants to enable police forces and the SWAT teams to be on duty at the event.
Los Angeles Police Department officers were seen with bulletproof vests and weapons on hand for safety measures. Behind the police were their patrol cars, along with a wired fence that protesters were instructed not to touch or cross. If a protester failed to follow instructions, police issued a warning via megaphone.
At the duration of the rally, police involvement was minimal and mainly involved guiding traffic away from those protesting along the 15.83 mile street of Wilshire Boulevard. From 12-6 p.m., the street was fully closed for the event, with traffic slowly reaching a non-bumper-to-bumper speed.
The event was announced on social media on May 7 by the Palestinian Youth Movement via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Asif Nawabi, a protester on the scene, shared his thoughts on the organization of the event and the conduction of it all once he arrived.
“This was the most organized and successful protest I’ve ever been to,” Nawabi said. “Most of the time, the protests I’ve been to have failed due to organizers not being persistent enough, and the Palestinian Youth Movement is really persistent on all of their platforms. I think Nakba day is also what made it super successful, with around 25,000 people out here to honor it.”
Multiple protesters lined up to take photos with trucks electronically labeled with the phrase ‘Free Palestine.’ Yasmine Atta/Courtesy
Nakba day took place on May 15, 1948, where a prestate Jewish community called the “Yishuv” formed into what is recognized by the United Nations as Israel. Al Jazzera states that between 1947 and 1949, around 750,000 Palestinians were removed from their homes in order for the Jewish settlers to come in.
With a population of 1.9 million Palestinians, more than half of the Palestinian villagers immigrated to neighboring territories seeking refuge. Palestinians can still recall this historic event as the stories from refugees were passed down from generation.
Weis Zafar, a first-generation Afghan American, recalls the stories he has heard from his friend, whose parents were immigrants from Palestine.
“My friend Omar has mentioned Nakba Day since a lot of his relatives were in Palestine at the time,” Zafar said. “The stories he’s told me remind me a lot of how this country was built. New people come in, the people who owned the land come out and boom; a new country where everyone forgets how they got it in the first place.”
In 1967, Israel and Palestine were caught in what history calls the “Six-Day War,” where Israel officially claimed occupation over Palestine. Ever since the population of Israelis has increased little by little.
According to protester Ramee Khalil, in order to continue gaining more land, the Israeli military goes to great lengths to make sure Palestinians “stay out of their way.”
“I’m here protesting because I won’t stay silent,” Khalil said. “Silence from Palestinians is what they want, that’s how they’re getting away with all of this. That, and also having support from the most successful country in the world.”
Khalil explained how the United States allying with Israel is damaging to Palestinian Americans. He claimed many people have felt “helpless” while witnessing the casualties of civilians in Gaza.
“Protesting is the only thing we can do,” he said. “Of course we donate and try our best to provide aid, but it’s hard when the place you live in urges you to support the opposite of what you believe in. Protesting is how we can show our brothers and sisters back home that we hear their cries.”
Buildings on Wilshire Boulevard tagged with phrases such as ‘Free Gaza’ by protesters. Yasmine Atta/Courtesy