Some protestors who gathered in support of Palestinians in Richmond Wednesday said their presence was related to the demands of last summer’s demonstrations for racial justice.
“I saw a lot of activists that I started following on Twitter last summer during a lot of those protests tweet about this happening today, and I decided to come,” said Camille Leech, a nurse from Richmond. “What's happening in Palestine right now is an ethnic cleansing, which isn't quite what we saw last summer, but I think it's very similar.”
The latest episode in the conflict began after protests over Israeli Jewish settlers taking over Palestinian homes in a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem.
Kalia Harris, a co-executive director of Virginia Student Power Network, also drew connections.
“The settler violence that is occurring in Palestine right now is directly related to the violence that we are experiencing with police brutality in many ways. Our city is invested in the Israeli occupation. We give money with our taxes to that,” she said. Richmond Police trained in Israel in 2011 as part of Anti-Defamation League's National Counter-Terrorism Seminar.
Standing in the middle of the crowd that had gathered in the shade on a hot day, Adeeb Abed from the Arab American Association of Central Virginia spoke with a megaphone.
“We were going to the recite all the names of those who are killed and massacred, but the number is too high and it would’ve took too long,” he said before reading a list of a family that was killed in Gaza in an Israeli airstrike.
Airstrikes from the Israeli military have killed more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza and 12 Israelis have been killed during rocket fire from the militant group Hamas.
There were other signs of Richmond’s practiced protest movement as the gathering marched from Monroe Park to Broad Street. Bike marshals ushered the march and kept an eye out for unfriendly people or police.
While on Broad Street, Abed said Americans have a responsibility in the conflict too because of American aid to the Israeli military.
“They are complicit because President Biden can end this with one phone call just tell [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu I will not send you $3.8 billion a year in military aid,” he said. “I think each one of us has an obligation to tell our government not to support the oppression of one people by another, and to stand for equal rights for all.