Friday, January 09, 2009

Thousands Rally and March in Downtown Detroit in Support of Palestinians in Gaza

Thousands Rally and March in Downtown Detroit in Support of Palestine

Demonstration condemns Israeli siege of Gaza

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
January 8, 2009

DETROIT--Thousands of Palestinian solidarity activists gathered outside the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit on January 8. The demonstration, which was organized by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) in conjunction with the Palestine Office of Michigan and the Congress of Arab-American Organizations in the metropolitan area, was designed to show the growing outrage in the United States over the Israeli aggression against the people in Gaza where over 750 people have been killed since December 27.

After the crowd of mainly young people and veteran anti-war and peace activists gathered and chanted outside the federal building from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m., the crowd took the streets along Michigan avenue and marched from the corner of Cass to Washington Blvd., and then down to Central United Methodist Church for a mass rally.

The slogans advanced by the demonstration represented the anger and frustration that many people have in the United States over the Bush administration's exclusive support military, economically and politically for the state of Israel. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign assistance in the world. In addition, the military equipment being used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are either manufactured in the US or paid for with American tax dollars.

Chanting "1-2-3-4, Stop the Killings, Stop the War" and 5-6-7-8, Israel is a Terrorist State", the sound grew louder and echoed throughout the downtown area during rush hour. As the crowd marched down Washington Blvd., people on the street blew their horns and raised clinched fist in support of the pro-Palestinian slogans.

In addition to the widespread Arab-American participation in the demonstration, there were a host of other organizations based in the metropolitan Detroit area who were present to express solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza. Some of these groups included: the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, the Detroit Area Peace With Justice Network, Jewish Voice for Peace, Detroit Area Jews for a Just Peace, the Detroit Green Party, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, the Moratorium Now! Coalition Against Foreclosures and Evictions, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, BAMN, the Detroit Martin Luther King Committe, among others.

As the march moved closer to the corner of Woodward avenue and Adams where Central United Methodist Church is located, a local police official directing traffic in the area asked march organizers if "all these people will be able to fit into the church?". It took nearly twenty minutes for the crowd to enter the Church and be seated.

A number of prominent speakers gave voice to the growing sentiment in opposition to United States foreign policy toward the Middle-East. The list of speakers included: Barbara Harvey of Jewish Voice for Peace, Hassan Newash of the Palestine Office of Michigan, Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab-American News based in Dearborn, Andrea Egypt of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Rev. Ed Rowe, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of the Detroit Archdiocese and Bill Wylie Kellerman, Pastor of St. Peter's Episcopal Church of Detroit, among others.

Hassan Newash of the Palestine Office thanked Rev. Ed Rowe for welcoming the demonstration to the church. Rev. Rowe stated that "Central is the place for all people who love peace and oppose violence and killing."

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton in reference to statements made earlier by Barack Obama, stated that "I want all of us to demand that when the next president takes office that he does not just go Israel, but that he goes to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, where children are brought to hospitals, their bodies bent and broken by the bombs."

Andrea Egypt of MECAWI pledged the organization's support for the people of Gaza and Palestine as a whole. In a statement circulated at the demonstration written by MECAWI, the organization emphasized that: "The siege and the bombings are US-Israeli war crimes. Without billions in yearly U.S. aid, Israel could not bomb the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, cut off their electricity and kick them out of their homes. Here in Detroit and throughout the U.S., the same government lets banks foreclosure on workers' homes while bosses lay-off thousands of workers and millions live in fear of imminent destitution."

Members of the youth group BAMN announced an effort to get a resolution passed before the Dearborn City Council calling for an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza. Members of the Detroit Martin Luther King Committee, which organizes the annual rally and march in honor of the martyred civil rights and peace leader, invited the crowd to the January 19 commemoration, which will be held also at Central United Methodist Church.

Distortions in Corporate Media Coverage

Corporate media coverage of the demonstration held in downtown Detroit on January 8 was reflective of the pro-Israeli bias that is pervassive in the written and electronic press. During a phase of the January 8 pro-Palestinian demonstration at the McNamara Federal Bldg., a groups of about two dozen Zionists held a picket in another section of the area in front of the same structure.

This event was obviously called in an attempt to both antagonize and deflect attention away from the political impact of the Palestinian solidarity demonstration that had been planned for a week outside the McNamara Bldg. In this same effort, the local corporate media outlets gave disproportionate coverage to the small number of pro-Israeli demonstrators.

Despite the fact that the pro-Palestine demonstrators far outnumbered the Zionist-US supporters, in the print press, pictures of the Israeli sympathizers, some of whom were indentified as government and military operatives, were postioned in a way to lend greater attention than the photographs of the demonstration and rally opposing the siege of Gaza.

Under the guise of journalistic balance, objectivity and illustrating "both sides of the conflict", the corporate media has downplayed the growing sentiment opposing the political and military policy of Washington toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There have been numerous demonstrations throughout the United States and Canada opposing the Israeli siege of Gaza and the continuing United States support for the State of Israel, yet the corporate press continues to serve as an apologists for the actions of the Israeli government and the ruling class in the United States.

However, the lack of public enthusiasm for this latest round of US imperialist-directed, financed and justified military aggression has shown the escalating disconnection between mass sentiment and the political objectives of the financial interests who control the print and electronic media. This disconnection is causing tremendous problems for the print media, particularly the daily newspapers.

In the city of Detroit, the two major dailies, The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, have announced that they will cut back substantially on their print production schedule later on in the year. Most of the days of the week, people who are interested in their papers, will have to go online to read them.

With the growing influence of the bloggersphere, many people are able to read their news from independent journalists and analysts who are not bound by the political and economic imperatives of the forces of US capitalism and imperialism.

Consequently, the most factual and penetrating coverage of the Israeli siege of Gaza is coming from the Middle-Eastern press and independent sources based in the region who post to blogs and web sites all over the world. The western corporate journalists keep saying that they have been prevented from reporting in Gaza, yet many have speculated that this is deliberate so they can promote the politico-military line of the state of Israel.

The demonstrations that have taken place in Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor and other areas around the United States, Canada and Europe are reflective of what is to come as it relates to a burgeoning movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Whether the United States government and corporate-controlled media reports the significance of these movements will not impact the changing political realities that they represent.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has been following both the mass demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine as well as the character of the media coverage on the current Israeli siege of Gaza.

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