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Protesters vow to continue until deaths stop

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31 December 2023, The Age, by Caroline Schelle

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets of Melbourne for the final time this year, vowing to continue gathering in the city until the violence in Gaza ends.

They defied drizzly conditions yesterday afternoon to meet on the steps of the State Library for the 12th Free Palestine rally.

Police estimated about 6000 protesters marched through the CBD, many donning traditional keffiyeh scarves, waving flags or holding signs calling for a ceasefire.

Roxburgh Park mum Zeanab Hameed said it was the ninth rally she had attended, and brought her children, Ali, Zahra and Sarah.

She said it was important that people kept speaking up about what was happening in Gaza and used their voices to stand up for those who couldn’t. ‘‘We’re very committed, and will be coming until the war stops against innocent civilians,’’ she said.

Twelve weeks ago, Hamas militants stormed Israeli towns, killing 1200 people and seizing 240 hostages. Since then, Israeli forces have laid much of the Gaza Strip to waste as it pursues its aim of eradicating the Islamist militants.

More than 21,500 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza’s health authorities, and about 85 per cent of the population of 2.3 million have fled their homes.

During yesterday’s march in the city, protesters chanted the Free Palestine slogan, “from the river to sea, Palestine will be free’’, which some Jewish people say is antisemitic because they believe it calls for the annihilation of Israel. However, Palestine advocates say the term calls for freedom and human rights for Palestinians.

They also chanted ‘‘ceasefire now’’, ‘‘Palestine will never die’’, ‘‘Albanese, Albanese genocide won’t go easy’’ and ‘‘out, out, Israel out’’ among others.

Emma Eve carried a sign with a slice of watermelon which read: ‘‘Would you like a slice of resistance?’’

The 25-year-old from Coburg said watermelon had become a symbol of the Palestinian resistance. ‘‘Palestinians were not allowed to hold up their Palestinian flag, and so shared the watermelon, which has all the colours of the Palestinian flag, as a sign of their resistance,’’ she said.

Eve said she had attended protests for weeks and was upset at the government’s response to what was happening in the region, saying there was a genocide. ‘‘We have to keep protesting until something happens,’’ Eve said.

Greens senator David Shoebridge addressed the protesters, slamming the Australian government for its response to the crisis.

‘‘The Australian people … want our government to lend its support to end the bombing, and to end the killing, and we want the same,’’ he told the rally.

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Article source: The Age | Caroline Schelle | 31.12.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000