PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A rally outside of Portland City Hall to support Palestinians amid the war between Israel and Hamas drew hundreds of demonstrators Friday afternoon.
By 4 p.m., the demonstrators had left City Hall and begun a march from Fourth Avenue. By 5 p.m., the march and demonstration had ended.
Hours before the rally’s start, organizers with the Portland State University’s Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights canceled the protests due to security concerns. However, the rally continued on, with demonstrators calling for the end of the occupation of Gaza and chanting “Free Palestine.”
Earlier on Friday, Portland police told KOIN 6 News it was aware of a “protest/demonstration event” slated for Friday that would “consist of a rally downtown and likely a march.”
Portland police had also warned the march’s route was unknown and could cause some minor traffic issues during the afternoon.
Demonstrator Suriya Abuelhawa told KOIN 6 News “when you say you stand with Palestine, you’re even standing with the innocent Jewish people that have lost their lives. This has been going on for so long. When is it going to end?”
People from all walks of life came out to show their support, like John, who tells JOIN 6 News he spent time in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon before moving to Portland.
“I was in a camp called Shatila, and this is a lot worse, what’s going on right now. We have a responsibility to protect human life, any life. I don’t agree with a lot of the things that were done by Hamas and things like that, but I believe in protecting people,” John said.
“It’s just like the world wanted all the Palestinian people to just be quiet and live in an outdoor prison. And that’s not what we’re wanting. Everyone deserves to have their freedom,” Abuelhawa said.
Abuelhawa tells KOIN 6 as tensions rose in the Middle East over the past week, she’s felt that tension transfer here at home – saying she’s noticed a rise racist and anti-Islamic rhetoric and recently feels less safe in her religious clothing.
“There are Christian Palestinians, there are Jewish Palestinians who are never talked about here in America,” Abuelhawa said. “Zionism does not define Judaism, you know, just like ISIS doesn’t define Islam.”
“A Lot of people are dying right now and are about to die. And this is ethnic cleansing and genocide, there’s no other way around that. So, we have a responsibility to protect the innocent,” John added.
Originally from Florida, Demonstrator Sammy tells KOIN 6 he was grateful to see a diverse crowd marching in solidarity.
“We’re separated just because of our ethnicity, and because of our history, and we’re trying to be whipped off the face of the earth,” Sammy said.
Having just visited Ramallah off the West Bank with family this summer, he says it’s been heartbreaking to watch the devastation from across the globe.
Sammy added, “Palestine has been under occupation for 75 years with no justice in sight. Our hearts go out to people back home. You know, we were thinking about them all the time and we’re praying for them. And hopefully the civilians make it out of this alive. It’s really heartbreaking to see.”