As Israeli bombs began yet again to rain down on Gaza, a spirited crowd gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco on Monday to demand an end to Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people, an end to U.S. aid to Israel, freedom for Palestinian political prisoners, and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The crowd at the Consulate swelled as people got off from work, with Palestinian-American youth forming the largest contingent. Back-and-forth call-and-response chanting from two sides of the street echoed in the urban canyon, forcing a tiny group of opponents waving Israeli and U.S. flags to remain silent, holding signs with the laughable claim that “Israel wants peace.” In one of the few speeches given during the rally, Richard Becker, Western regional coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, noted that the signs would be accurate if they only changed one letter – “Israel wants a piece of Palestine, and another piece, and another piece.” Dr. Hatem Bazian, a lecturer at UC Berkeley and a well-respected Palestinian solidarity activist, also spoke.
After almost two hours of steady chanting, the crowd, which had swelled to 400 people, took to the streets of downtown San Francisco for a 1 1/2-mile march. Pedestrians and cars along the way not only heard a constant cry of “Free, free Palestine” and “Stop killing children,” but were treated to the sight of a giant Palestinian flag being carried through the street. The flag took 20 people to carry it and was more than a full lane wide. The march ended at San Francisco’s iconic Union Square with more chanting. As a grand finale, some activists dangled a Palestinian flag from the rooftop of the huge Macy’s store across the street.
The rally and march were sponsored by a broad coalition of Bay Area groups, including the ANSWER Coalition, AROC-Arab Resource & Organizing Center, Coalition for Palestinian Rights (San Francisco), Palestine Youth Movement, Code Pink Women for Peace, East Bay Arab Cultural Center, Free Palestine Movement, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, International Solidarity Movement, Middle East Children’s Alliance, United Holy Land Fund, and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network.