The "currents of solidarity" developing between the residents of Gaza, Palestine and Ferguson, Missouri were expressed on the ground in Ohio on Sunday. Separate protests — planned against Israel's occupation of Gaza and the militarized police response to the uprising in Ferguson — converged into a single demonstration outside the Statehouse in Columbus.
Several hundred demonstrators from Dayton, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus gathered to highlight parallels between Ferguson, a two-thirds African American Missouri suburb policed by a nearly all-white police force, and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. "We're here not just for Palestine," said organizer Bilal El-Yousseph. "We're here for Ferguson.
"The same tear gas they're using on protesters in Missouri is being used in Gaza," El-Yousseph said. He led the crowd in a chant: "Occupation is a crime, from Ferguson to Palestine!"
"The current war on Gaza is completely unjustified, disproportionate, and a violation of international law," said Connie Hammond of the Progressive Peace Coalition in Columbus. "We are outraged at the blatant violation of human rights that are perpetrated by Israel on a regular basis, including the confiscation of land in the occupied territories, house demolitions, and detention and abuse of Palestinian children. We ask that the international community demand that Israel complies with all international laws and come into compliance with international humanitarian standards."
"There's unity in the struggle," said Tammy Alsaada of Columbus."It's not about religion, it's not about where you stand politically. It's about humanity. We are all human beings and deserve the right to freedom and justice."
"The U.S. government sends $3.1 billion annually to the Israeli government," said Sami Idries, president of the Committee for Justice in Palestine at the Ohio State University. "This is a significant amount of our tax money that is being used to fund heinous crimes committed by the Israeli military. As American citizens, we are obligated to condemn these horrifying acts and demand that our government, as well as Israel's, are held accountable."
OSU professor Pranav Jani spoke about Steven Salaita, who has received widespread support since being fired from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for posting pro-Palestinian comments on Twitter. "Where is academic freedom?" Jani asked. "Where is free speech? What country are we living in? Aren't we supposed to have the right to talk about basic issues, even if they're controversial?"
"The Israeli assault on Gaza is a reminder of the everyday terror that Palestinians live under," said Ben Stockwell of the Cincinnati International Socialist Organization. "When they aren't fleeing from bombs, they are living without adequate water, food, shelter, medical care and basic human rights. To be silent in the face of such atrocities is to be on the wrong side of history and humanity."
"I'm here because I'm tired of seeing people dying," said Calla Thomas of the Ohio Student Association. "I'm here for everybody who got shot by our cops. I'm here because I'm angry, because I'm fed up. If any change is going to be accomplished, we'll have to realize that what happens is Gaza has an effect on what happens on Ferguson, and vice versa. All of this is connected, and our system is an oppressive system.
"It's hard to change people when people are living under laws that are hateful," Thomas said. "Our institutions are filled with hate. We need to change our institutions."