Thousands March in Cambridge for Cease-Fire in Gaza
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Author: Laura Crimaldi
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The Boston Globe

CAMBRIDGE ― Thousands of demonstrators gathered Saturday afternoon to call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war and peace for Palestinians in Gaza during a rally in front of Cambridge City Hall followed by a procession to MIT, where a second rally was held outside the Rogers Building.

The demonstrations and march lasted about 3½ hours on the same day the US said military aircraft delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza by airdrop. Also Saturday, a senior US official said Israel has essentially endorsed a framework of a proposed Gaza cease-fire and hostage release deal, and it is now up to Hamas to agree to it, the Associated Press reported. Talks to reach an agreement are set to resume on Sunday in Egypt.

In Cambridge, demonstration organizers encouraged the crowd to use Tuesday’s presidential primary election in Massachusetts to choose the “no preference” option on the Democratic ballot to show their opposition to President Biden’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza and US aid to Israel.

The effort gained traction Tuesday in Michigan where more than 100,000 voters in the Democratic primary cast ballots for “uncommitted” in the race, enough to earn two delegates from congressional districts around Ann Arbor and Detroit suburbs.

Biden still won the state with more than 618,000 votes, but Merrie Najimy, an organizer for the Massachusetts effort, said the number of “uncommitted” votes in Michigan “lit a fire” locally.

“Suddenly every Arab and every Muslim community and every Palestinian solidarity activist and network and every person in the peace movement decided we are aligning ourselves, our voices, and our votes with Michigan,” said Najimy, who previously led the Massachusetts Teachers Association. “This is a clear message to President Biden and the old guard of the Democrats.”

She encouraged the crowd to share votes of “no preference” on social media Tuesday.

Najimy also criticized tweets from Biden describing airdrops of US humanitarian aid to Gaza and plans to expand the delivery of supplies by land.

She cited the deaths of at least 115 Palestinians in Gaza City Thursday after witnesses said Israeli troops opened fire on a crowd seeking food aid from a convoy.

Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a chaotic stampede for the food aid, the AP reported, and that its troops only fired when they felt endangered by the crowd.

Biden and Democrats “need to hear a little bit more from us,” Najimy said.

“They clearly do not have the interests of humanity in mind, but they have the interest of their purse and their election in mind so let’s hit them there, where it hurts,” she said.

The current escalation of the conflict began on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing around 250 hostages.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,320, according to AP. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures, but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed, the news service reported.

Fawaz Abusharkh, a demonstration organizer and leader with Boston Coalition for Palestine and Palestinian House of New England, said in an interview that the rally and march were “giving voice to the voiceless.”

“The war has to stop,” he said in an interview on the MIT campus where it was raining, sometimes heavily.

Some marchers carried signs bearing messages, including “Biden Wake Up,” “Free All Palestinian Political Prisoners,” and “Palestine Will Be Free.”

One demonstrator who addressed the crowd outside City Hall and led them in a chant said, “We are not neutral in this. We have taken a side and we are on the side of the Palestinian people.”

He identified himself to the Globe as Suhail Parker and said he’s a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Speaking to the crowd, he said, “The Democratic Party is a broken vehicle for change.

“What are we going to do when they come around in November to ask for our votes?” Parker asked the crowd. “Absolutely nothing!”

A member of the crowd called out: “No cease-fire, no votes!”

Some of the demonstrators sought to honor Aaron Bushnell, 25, a US airman who died last week after he set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., while shouting, “Free Palestine.” Bushnell was raised in a religious compound in Orleans, The Washington Post reported.

“God bless his soul,” Amu Ahmed, a representative of the Palestinian House of New England, said to the gathering at Cambridge City Hall.

Mike Fantasia of Marlborough attended the rally with his daughter, River. They said they are raising money to try to help a Palestinian family leave Gaza and go to Egypt.

“It’s on everyday people like us to raise money,” Fantasia said.


Laura Crimaldi can be reached at Follow her @lauracrimaldi.


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