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Denver Takes to the Streets: Protesting for Peace in the Middle East

Denver Takes to the Streets: Protesting for Peace in the Middle East

(Photo from previous demonstration)

A demonstration led by Denver Anti-War Action, Colorado Party for Socialism and Liberation as well as the Colorado Palestine Coalition was held at the Auraria campus on January 22nd, 2023. Hundreds gathered to demand a ceasefire after over 100 days of bombing in Gaza.

Demonstrators held signs that read “Free-Palestine” and “End All US Aid To Israel”. The protesters demanded the immediate stoppage of all US aid to Israel, as well as “hands off Yemen” in response to the most recent escalation of the fighting in the Middle East.

Solidarity and shipping

In solidarity with Palestine, a Yemeni militant group called the Houthi rebels began firing missiles on and in some cases seizing cargo ships they claimed were en route to Israel from the Red Sea. In December, Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree announced that any ship destined for Israel was a “legitimate target” and claimed they would not stop until the Gaza Strip was supplied with food and medicine.

On January 12th the US and the UK conducted a series of airstrikes on Houthi-controlled portions of Yemen. Critics of the airstrikes, including those demonstrators on Monday, claim that the Houthis have killed zero people since the launch of their attacks in the Red Sea, meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza had just surpassed 25,000.

“The Israelis have been committing genocide for over 100 days in Gaza, and the people of Colorado will not stop marching until these horrors are stopped, and Palestine is free,” Denver PSL wrote on Instagram after the demonstration had ended.

The protests spilled off of campus and out into the streets, with a march being led down Speer which blocked traffic.

Several protests have been led in Denver since the bombing campaign started in Gaza in response to the October 7th attacks. In October, students at the Auraria campus walked out of class in solidarity with Palestinians who had lost access to food and water. Counter-protesters in support of Israel briefly clashed with pro-Palestine protestors before campus police got control of the situation.

Palestinian support in the polls

Support for Palestine has increased with the newest wave of violence, according to a YouGov poll from October of 2023, more people ages 18-29 sympathized with Palestinians than with Israelis in the current conflict. A reason for this could be conflicting generational history.

In the years following its establishment, Israel initially faced economic challenges and vulnerability. However, as millennials developed their awareness of global events, they witnessed the aftermath of the second Intifada in the mid-2000s, marked by the erection of fortified walls and barriers between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

During this period, many in the younger generation shaped their perception of Israel based on reports highlighting restrictions on Palestinian  access to water, freedom of movement, and fair trials, all under the military control of a nation that had evolved into a relatively affluent, nuclear-armed power.

Joey Ayoub, an academic, podcaster, and writer of Palestinian-Lebanese descent, suggests that young Americans are increasingly inclined to view the Palestinian cause as a parallel issue to the pursuit of racial justice in the United States. He points to a “visual parallel” where an armed soldier or police officer exerts control over a community with limited power, whether it be a town in the occupied West Bank or a predominantly Black neighborhood in the United States.

The human rights connection

“It’s a natural ally to the Palestinian struggle because it’s very similar if you think of it in terms of the bullet points being demanded — the right to dignity, the right to life, and so on,” he told the Washington Post.

He sees 2014 as a pivotal year in a new generation’s understanding of the conflict. Violence in Gaza killed about 2,250 Palestinians and 73 Israelis at roughly the same time as protests erupted in Ferguson, Mo. over the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black man.

“Palestinian Americans were tweeting advice towards African Americans about how to deal with tear gas, for example,” he said. “That was something very symbolically powerful.”

The grievances voiced by demonstrators highlight a broader concern for human rights and justice, resonating with a younger generation that increasingly sees parallels between the struggles for racial justice in the United States and the Palestinian cause.

The activists on the ground in Denver are resolute, emphasizing that they will continue to march and speak out until their concerns are addressed. The intersection of global events, generational perspectives, and grassroots activism suggests that the issues raised by the demonstrators are unlikely to fade away without serious attention and action from local and state lawmakers.

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