Thursday, January 22, 2009

Martin Luther King Day Turns Toward Palestine

ML King Day turns toward Palestine

By Betsey Piette
Published Jan 21, 2009 1:37 PM

In Atlanta, the annual Martin Luther King Day march, which highlights the role of unions, community organizations, churches and progressive groups, filled Atlanta’s major thoroughfare, Peachtree Street. Some of the signs read “End the War in Iraq? Yes, We Can!” “Justice for Troy Davis!” and “Bail Out the People!” The most numerous and loudest contingent was that of Palestinians and other opponents of the U.S.-backed Israeli massacre in Gaza.

Children, youth and adults waved flags, chanted nonstop and were warmly greeted by the largely African-American crowds gathered along the route. The lead banner included a quote from King, “Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere,” followed by the demand “Let Palestine Live!”

This year’s MLK Day in Detroit stressed the necessity of solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza. As a result of this demonstration of support, the Detroit MLK Committee invited three speakers from the Arab-American community.

Two Palestinian-American women, Hadil Katato and Hend Elomari, addressed the crowd by paying tribute to the anti-racist and anti-war legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Then, introduced by Barbara Harvey of Jewish Voice for Peace, Osama Siblani, the publisher of the Arab-American News, spoke.

In New York City, women and children led a march for justice in Gaza, entering Union Square chanting, “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry! Palestine will never die!” The children led spirited chants in English and Arabic, raising fists and waving Palestinian flags.

As snow blanketed the city, over 3,000 people gathered for the Jan. 19 event, part of the national days of action in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rally co-chair Lamis Deek of Al-Awda introduced a young boy who at earlier demonstrations chanted to the crowd atop his father’s shoulders, calling him “the face of the resistance.” From his father’s arms, he shouted, “No Justice!” and the crowd responded “No Peace!”

In Minneapolis over 500 protesters braved bone-chilling weather to oppose the U.S.-Israeli war against Gaza. On a two-hour march a sea of Palestinian flags and cries of “Free, free Palestine!” and “No to U.S.-Israeli atrocities!” greeted shoppers, who expressed sympathy to the protesters’ message.

Hundreds gathered in San Diego on Jan.17 expressing outrage against the U.S.-funded, Israeli attacks. Messages of solidarity came from a number of community organizations. Gloria Verdieu, representing the International Action Center, read the statement by the Blacks Against Genocide Coalition condemning Israeli atrocities. Zahi Damuni, Al-Awda leader and protest organizer, warned the incoming Obama administration that it faced global condemnation unless it halted U.S./Israeli aggression in the Middle East.

Ten Chicago protestors face criminal trespassing charges after staging a sit-in Jan. 16 at the office of Sen. Dick Durbin, who has supported the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Protestors demanded a meeting with Durbin, insisting he speak out against the continuing Israeli assault on Gaza and call on Israel to open Gaza’s borders. Maureen Murphy of the Palestine Solidarity Group stated, “We call on Senator Durbin to initiate legislation to investigate whether Israel is in violation of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976.”

Chants of “No more blood, no more tears! It’s been over 60 years!” echoed through frigid night air as 300 people marched from the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia through rush-hour traffic on Jan. 16. Arab and Muslim women and children led the “March of Mourning,” protesting indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza. Those in front walked in silence, carrying stretchers with toys, shoes and small mock shrouds. Despite a single-digit temperature the militant crowd ended the rally by throwing shoes at City Hall to protest U.S. government funding of Israel’s wars.

Commemorating the 80th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 15, some 30 people backed up Black community leaders at a news conference at the busy downtown Federal Building in Los Angeles, where they condemned the U.S.-Israeli genocidal massacre in Gaza.

Speakers included Hank Jones of the San Francisco 8, and representatives from the Black UCLA student organization ASAP, Global Women’s Strike, All African People’s Revolutionary Party, KPFK radio and the International Action Center. They demanded that President-elect Barack Obama and Black elected officials in Congress meet their historical obligations of fighting injustice by ending their silent complicity and work towards ending all aid to Israel.

In Woodstock, N.Y., at the 19th Annual Tribute to Dr. King, Rev. Modele Clark spoke on the significance of the election on King Day, noting, “Obama is stepping through a door left ajar by Martin Luther King Jr.”

Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal described the long struggle to free Mumia. Speaking on the capitalist system and the war in Gaza, she said, “It’s not what Obama’s gonna’ do. It’s what we’re gonna’ do!”

On King Day in Cleveland, 300 people braved icy winds off Lake Erie to march around the Justice Center, which houses the police department, courts and Cuyahoga County jail, protesting racial disparities in sentencing, police brutality and mistreatment in the jail. Inmates banged on their windows, held up lettered signs and waved clothing in solidarity with the march. A delegation from Cleveland’s Palestinian community participated in the protest and passed out information about Gaza.

Some 10,000 people participated in the annual Martin Luther King Day March in Seattle, pouring into the streets from Garfield High School. The theme was “Yes we can. Change begins now.” The march followed 22 workshops on community, national and international issues and a rally.

Black, Asian, Latino and white people in large numbers marched together. Unions and community groups were well represented. Signs protested threatened school closures, especially at the city’s only African-American academy. Three big banners demanded freedom for Palestine and an end to the U.S.-Israeli war against Gaza.

Some 100 supporters of Gaza braved the freezing cold to march in the annual King Parade in uptown Charlotte, N.C., on Jan. 17. Support from the mainly African-American spectators along the route was overwhelming, particularly as marchers passed through The Square. On Jan. 19, some 50 people took to the streets in the upscale South Park area near Rep. Sue Myrick’s local office, demanding an Israeli pullout from Gaza.

Abayomi Azikiwe, Sharon Danann, Bob Dobrow, David Dixon, Stephanie Hedgecoke, Jill Hill, Dianne Mathiowetz, Jim McMahan, Bob McCubbin, Betsey Piette and Brenda Ryan contributed to this article.
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