As Americans tuned in to the Super Bowl on Sunday night, Israel mercilessly bombed Rafah, the last major city in Gaza that had yet to be seriously touched by Israel’s genocidal onslaught. In just over an hour, the Israeli Defense Forces killed an estimated hundred civilians in rocket and bomb attacks, escalating the government’s ongoing effort to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people. As citizens in the U.S. woke up on Monday morning, more and more became aware of what had happened the previous night in Gaza, and quickly organizers in Maine and across the U.S. did what they do best: they organized.
In Chicago, they took to the streets near Federal Plaza. In New York City, they shut down the tunnel to Grand Central. Here in Portland, with less than 12 hours to organize, the Maine Coalition for Palestine rallied roughly 200 to Monument Square on a chilly Monday night, reiterating calls for an immediate ceasefire and decrying the incomprehensible crimes against humanity being committed by the state of Israel. As folks with signs and noise makers lined Congress Street and passing cars gave supportive honks, others gathered around the square’s statue, ready to hear the night’s featured speakers.
Seven speakers addressed the crowd, backdropped by messages projected onto the statue and nearby building, like “Never Again is Now,” and images that stressed the atrocities taking place. Paige from the Maine Coalition for Palestine reminded the crowd that the world has “been letting Gaza die for five months now.” Contrasting the celebration of sports in America with the horrors faced in Rafah, they left the audience with the final thought that there had been “109 killed in one hour, and that was our halftime show.”
Tim, from Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights noted the cowardice of President Joe Biden in the face of what the world is increasingly coming to see as a genocide. “If Genocide Joe wants things to change, then stop sending 2,000 pound bombs to incinerate the rest of Gaza!” And Nick from Maine Students for Palestine spoke on the decimation not only of Palestinian life, but of Palestinian knowledge. “All universities in Palestine have either been significantly damaged or completely destroyed,” he said before listing names of Palestinian scholars and professors killed by Israeli forces in these last five months.
Speakers Anna and Lily came up together. Anna, of Jewish faith, invited other Jewish attendees to come stand with them up front. About twenty people came forward, showcasing that this isn’t about religion, but about standing up against genocide and fighting for the human rights of everyone, everywhere. “When I think of those murdered in this genocide,” she said, “I think of my Oma, who fled genocide in Nazi Germany.” And Lily sang a Jewish song of mourning to remember those Palestinians who have been killed.
Finally, Niko from the Party for Socialism and Liberation brought the message of the night full circle. They emphasized that this genocide does not exist in a vacuum. It has been allowed to continue with the blessing of the global West, because Israel is important to its continuing imperial project; and noted how its weapons sales have been profitable for merchants of death, like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. But, they made sure to end with a call to action and agency. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot change this, because we are changing the narrative right now.” Lastly, Niko led the crowd in a growing, echoing cry, “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!” With a growing chorus of protests across the world, and the growing cries of those being killed in Gaza, there’s no doubt U.S. and world leaders hear peoples’ desire for peace. Now, it’s a matter of making them care.