The cold, rain and snow were unable to dampen the spirits of those gathered at a rally for peace in the Gaza Strip, on Monument Circle Saturday, January 10.
American and Palestine flags fluttered in the wind, music echoed off the buildings surrounding the Monument and passing cars honked in support of the over 200 people gathered. Carrying signs and singing songs, demonstrators came to show support for the millions of displaced and besieged people in the Gaza Strip.
"We are raising our voices united to end the violence in Gaza," said Najwa Khazala, one of the organizers of the event.
The rally, which took place from noon to two on the north side of the monument, was a joint effort of several Indianapolis peace groups, aimed at bringing awareness to the current state of affairs in Gaza. The Indianapolis Peace and Justice Center, Veterans for Peace, International Interfaith Initiative, St. George Orthodox Church, Nur-Allah Islamic Center and the Al-Huda Foundation were all present to call for an immediate end to the violence and humanitarian relief.
"We want inform the people of Indianapolis of what is happening," said Bashar Naji, 28. "We want to raise questions of what is going on (in Gaza)."
Speakers of all social, ethnic and religious backgrounds took the microphone calling for an end to the violence in Gaza and for understanding and tolerance among the different religious groups. There were calls for the US government to intervene in Gaza and to take a stand against Israel.
"We hope that (the US) will put international pressure on Israel," said Khalid Qumsieh, formerly of Bethlehem. "(Israel) is collectively punishing millions in Gaza looking for about 1000 people. This is illegal under international law."
Pointing to recent events in Gaza such as the bombing of a United Nations school by the Israeli air force and the attack on an aid convoy by ground troops, many expressed their concern for the people trapped in Gaza and for those trying to help.
"We ask, no, demand Israel open the borders and allow aid into Gaza," Khazala told the crowd.
Frustrated with the United States unabashed support of their Israeli allies, demonstrators carried signs calling for an end to US aid to Israel. Postcards were passed throughout the crowd to be signed. Organizers said these postcards would be sent to President Elect Obama demanding an end to US support of Israel.
After the speakers had finished, demonstrators marched around Monument Circle crying out for peace and an end to the violence in Gaza.
Khazala pointed out the diverse backgrounds and religions of the people gathered to show their support and to speak, noting that events like the one in Gaza reach across religion and ethnicity.
"This emphasizes peace isn't about religion," Khazala said. "It is about humanity."
Organizers will hold another rally this Saturday, Jan. 17, beginning at noon on the Circle.