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//Demonstrators gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol, calling for the U.S. military to end its support of Israel in solidarity with Palestine on May 14. Photo by Kieran Purce | purce.kieran1@gmail.com

On May 14, the Party for Liberation and Socialism teamed up with the Colorado Palestinian Group to organize a protest against the U.S.’s financial and military support of Israel. The protest came amid ongoing attacks by Israel on Gaza and East Jerusalem, which is inhabited by mostly Palestinians. 

The event, which began at 4 p.m., drew hundreds of demonstrators who marched on the Capitol toward the 16th Street Mall. However, the demographics of this protest looked noticeably different from other recent demonstrations in Denver, with far more families in attendance. Mothers donned hijabs and pushed their young children in strollers while fathers carried Palestinian flags. Young adults carried signs in support of BDS—boycott, divest and sanctions, referring to the effort to end support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law—as they marched along with their families. Many of the protesters identified as of Palestinian descent as well.

“We need to take our homeland back,” said one Palestinian woman who declined to give her name. She was one of many attendees who were born in the United States but still have family in Palestine. 

“The liberation of Palestine, for me, means not making us stop at checkpoints,” said another Palestinian American who went by the name Junior. “[It means] being able to have water and electricity and not have it shut off arbitrarily,” he said, explaining that these are the conditions his extended family live under in Palestine. The last time Junior visited his family was in 2008 because, “it’s just not easy to travel in and out of Palestine, not anymore.”

This recent siege upon Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and Gaza began just a few days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, the most important holiday for both Shia and Sunni Muslims.

On May 7, following their evening prayers, demonstrators had gathered at the Al-Aqsa mosque to protest the eviction of 40 Palestinians from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. According to the Middle East Eye, Israeli police resorted to violent tactics to disperse the protesters, which forced many to hide inside the mosque to avoid the incoming tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets that left hundreds injured. 

The following day, Israeli forces began cordoning and arresting Palestinians leaving the mosque after their evening prayers. On May 10, Israeli forces again raided the mosque with smoke bombs and rubber bullets, this time confiscating all keys to Al-Aqsa and denying medics access to those injured inside, even confiscating carts used to evacuate the wounded. That evening, Israeli forces raided the mosque for the third time in four days, and again on May 11. 

In other parts of the country, Israeli youths stormed shops belonging to Palestinians, broke into Palestinian homes and even pulled a Palestinian man out of his vehicle and lynched him during a live broadcast on an Israeli news channel. Israeli airstrikes “pulverized” a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outlets’ Gaza bureaus on May 15. 

“I’m angry [that Israeli forces] did this during Ramadan,” said one young Palestinian woman who asked to remain anonymous. Only one supporter of Israel appeared at the protest, waving an Israeli flag on the north end of the Capitol. Angry protesters splintered off from the march to surround and confront the Israel supporter, while others followed to pull them away from the lone demonstrator. 

Though Denver is quite a ways away from Washington D.C. and even further from Jerusalem, one individual explained the importance of marching in solidarity. 

“Think of it like littering,” said Alizay Indigo, a Denver native who is African American and Emirati. “If one person litters, it’s just a little bit of trash. But if everyone starts littering, soon we’ll all be walking through a garbage dump. If we all start voicing our anger at what’s going on, then pretty soon it’ll be hard to ignore.” 

After marching through downtown, the procession returned to the Capitol where a Muslim man began the call to prayer. The remaining protesters, most of whom were also Muslim, prayed on the steps of the Capitol, bringing the sanctity of the masjid to the streets.  

Indigo compared this march to the George Floyd protests in 2020. Between the pandemic-driven recession and deepening inequity, protests are likely to continue in 2021 as well.

“We were all out on the streets,” he said. “They couldn’t ignore us anymore.” 

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