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More than 300 protesters in Providence demand the U.S. stop funding military aid for Israel

Protest included march to Textron World Headquarters, die-in at Senator Jack Reed’s office

More than 300 protesters rallied at Burnside Park on Friday, raising signs reading “U.S. Aid Kills Palestinian Children!” and “Solidarity with the Palestinian People’s Struggle.”

The protest was organized to demand that “Rhode Island’s four federal legislators co-sponsor a joint resolution of disapproval for a sale of $735 million in bombs to the Israeli military, and to end the U.S. government’s $3.8 billion per year in military aid to Israel,” according to a press release from Act Now to Stop War & End Racism Coalition, an anti-war and anti-racism organization.

Rhode Island for Palestine organized the event, which was cosponsored by more than 15 organizations including Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Political Action Committee, Providence Democratic Socialists of America, ANSWER Coalition, Sunrise Providence, Brown Students for Justice in Palestine, RISD Students for Justice in Palestine, Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement and Party for Socialism and Liberation Rhode Island.

The purpose of the protest was to stand in solidarity with Palestine and raise awareness on the issue, Rhode Island for Palestine organizer Rasha Abousalem told The Herald.

After 11 days of violence between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a ceasefire was called early Friday morning. At least 240 people have been killed, with most being Palestinians in the territory of Gaza. Both Israel and Hamas have claimed victory in this latest conflict.

Abousalem, who has personal ties to the cause — her parents are Palestinian refugees who were part of the 1948 Nakba, a mass exodus during the 1948 Palestine war — is glad that many are starting to recognize the weight of the conflict in Palestine.

“Thanks to social media, people are becoming extremely aware of the truth and the facts of what's happening in Palestine under Israeli apartheid,” Abousalem said. “For the longest time, people have avoided describing the Israeli government in that way, but it is an apartheid … and ultimately our tax dollars completely fund this.”

Members of various organizations cosponsoring the protest spoke to the crowd and called for a free Palestine. 

Satya Mohapatra of ANSWER Coalition spoke of his support of the people of Palestine and Afro Asian liberation. 

“I'm not a Muslim, I'm not Palestinian, I'm not Jewish. I’m Indian. So why am I here today? Because Palestine is an issue of settler colonial occupation,” Mohapatra said. He emphasized the importance of showing international solidarity with Palestine and mobilizing the U.S. government. 

BLM RI PAC Political Director Enrique Sanchez and BLM RI PAC Executive Director Harrison Tuttle spoke to mobilize people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ communities to support Palestine.

BLM RI PAC supports those fighting for the end of “Western imperialism and colonialism, from the streets of Chicago and New York … to the complete and total liberation of Palestine,” Sanchez said.

Jackie Goldman from Providence DSA spoke of their Jewish identity and upbringing in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I'm here to stand as a Jewish person and explain why we need to stand for anti-Zionism,” Goldman said. As a socialist, Goldman calls for solidarity of the everyday working people, and said that they cannot wait for legislators to take action.

Afterward, Abousalem and another organizer read the names of every child that was killed by Israeli airstrikes, emphasizing the young ages of some of the victims and how many of these children belong to the same families. The crowd then held a one-minute moment of silence for the victims.

Protestors marched next toward Textron World Headquarters, an industrial conglomerate that has a tower in downtown Providence and ties to the Israel Defense Force. As protesters marched, they chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” 

Textron declined to comment on the protest in response to an inquiry from The Herald.

The group then headed toward the office of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, head of the Senate Arms Committee, and participated in a die-in where they laid down on the street in front of the building. At the protest, Rhode Island State Rep. David Morales MPA ’19 urged leaders to responsibly use their platform to protect human rights.

“They say that they’re going to listen to the people,” Morales said. “I want to be clear, the people are here and we’re making our demands very clear.”

In a May 11 statement, Reed said that “Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks. … This outbreak of violence only underscores the importance of achieving a two-state solution, where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security.  

He later called for a ceasefire in a joint statement with 28 other senators, and he commended President Biden for helping to broker the ceasefire.

“I urge both sides to honor the ceasefire,” Reed said in a May 20 statement. “The international community must seize this moment to play a constructive role and help bring a just and sustainable peace to Israelis and Palestinians.”

Reed had previously defended the Biden administration’s $735 million arms transfer to Israel, a sale from a private company that had been developing for months and one that some House Democrats had pushed to delay prior to the outbreak in violence. Democrats who supported the on-time sale noted that the machinery to be transferred is precision-guided, a feature important to reducing civilian deaths in Israel’s strikes on Hamas.

“The JDAMs are designed to make weapons precise. In this conflict, that would seem to me to be a reasonable transfer,” Reed told Politico before the ceasefire was called. “Frankly, this is not a mercy resupply. This was something they ordered routinely.”

Reed’s office did not reply to a request from The Herald for comment.

Abousalem and Sterk Zaza, another organizer, concluded the protest by expressing their anger toward Reed and Biden for using American tax dollars in support of Israel.

“Divestment is one of the main things that Palestinians are asking for,” protestor Mona Malone ’24 said. “By not showing support, you’re immediately complicit. As Brown students, we have the responsibility … our tuition (and) everything we do is impacting people’s lives internationally.”

In March 2019, 69 percent of students who responded to student coalition Brown Divest’s referendum voted to pass it. The referendum asked whether the University should “divest all stocks, funds, endowment and other monetary instruments from companies complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine” and also “establish a means of implementing financial transparency and student oversight of the University’s investments.” 44 percent of the undergraduate student body voted in the 2019 elections — the highest turnout in three years — and 39.9 percent of students voted on the referendum.

After the referendum passed, President Christina Paxson P’19 responded in a university-wide letter in which she expressed her opposition to divestment and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In March 2020, the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies recommended to Paxson and the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, that the University divest from “any company that profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.”

“We are demanding that we divest from this violence that we have been supporting endlessly since the 1940s,” Morales said. “But to do this, it requires our leaders to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”



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