Protesters march through downtown Vancouver in support of Gaza

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Gaza Violence Protest Vancouver 2014

Close to a thousand people gathered behind the Vancouver Art Gallery on July 19 for an “emergency protest” against the violence in Gaza. This was the second, and biggest protest of its kind in Vancouver since the recent surge of violence in the region that erupted last Tuesday.

Placards and fists were raised in the air as the protesters moved down West Georgia Street to its intersection with Hamilton Street, and back up Robson Street towards the Art Gallery. “Free free Palestine” and “Shame on Israel” were a few of the many slogans chanted along the way.

“We always talk about Canada as the peacemaker. But then when we look at it, and we are supporting a country that supports the killing of innocent children,” said Sarah Barahmeh a Canadian-Palestinian student at Kwantlen University who attended the protest.

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement on the issue, voicing Canada’s “unequivocal” support for Israel. Though the demonstrators walking through downtown Vancouver were strongly condemning Canada’s backing of Israel and made their opposition clear through the many slogans and speakers at the rally.

“We need to stand against injustice,” said Janine Solanki, chairperson of Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO), while walking with the crowd of approximately 900 people. “The government of Canada has given their full support to Israel. This makes me very angry because right now Israel is massacring Palestinian people and has been occupying them for over 66 years.”

Sid Shniad, a member of the Independent Jewish Voices Canada, also said he is standing against the words of Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird.

“We are adamantly opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and we want them to end their occupation yesterday,” he said. “We want to get the Canadian government to stop being apologists for the Israeli government.”

Protests of this kind have been held in many other major cities across Canada, such as Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Calgary.

A similar demonstration in Calgary turned into a violent clash. Israeli supporters approached the rally, and a fight broke out after a Palestinian supporter punched and knocked down an Israeli supporter. Attempts were made to stop the violence but minutes later another brawl broke out. Police tried to restore order, but the scene remained chaotic, writes the Calgary Herald.

In Vancouver, the protest ended peacefully. Although peace has yet to come for Israelis and Palestinians living through the conflict.

The death toll in Gaza has reached at least 425, most of them being civilians, as Israel launches its second ground offensive. An overnight fight with Hamas inside Gaza left 13 Israeli soldiers dead—a total of 18 Israeli military casualties and two civilians.

“For me, this [protest] is for all the people we walk by in the street who are passive to this situation, or who think it’s a complex conflict and think that it’s anything less than a genocide,” said Hannah Barale, a Canadian-South African student from the Vancouver Community College. “There’s a perception in the media that this is an equal war. Whether or not this influence is heard in Gaza, it’s going to be felt here and we will change minds and opinions.”

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Behdad Mahichi is currently an Editorial Assistant at Vancity Buzz and a journalism student at Ryerson University. He writes about anything from entertainment and politics to his misfortunately extreme caffeine addiction.
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