About 50 local residents turned out to voice their support for a ceasefire in the Gaza strip. They gathered in front of the Civic Centre, then marched up Bay Street to Elgin, pausing for a time in front of the offices of Sault MP Ross Romano.
The group proceeded to Queen Street, where they stopped for several minutes in front of the offices of Sault MPP Terry Sheehan. Chants of “What Do We Want? Peace? When do we want it? Now!”
resonated through downtown in a peaceful protest. City Police followed the group in case it became otherwise.
Protester Robert Peace said people have different reasons for spending a cold Friday night voicing their frustration with the warfare and calling for a ceasefire, but explains the differences melt into a unified cause in light of the devastation in Gaza and the potential for more death, more destruction, and no solution.
“I don’t have family or any kind of connection to that area of the world, other than I’m someone who follows international politics and global events. I’ve seen for years the suffering that’s gone on that region, where things come to a head. The life that the people in Gaza and the Occupied Territories is so horrendous. There’s been no solution and now one set of horrible deeds is being responded to by substantially larger ones.”
It’s been two weeks since the terrorist group Hamas attacked Israel, killing more than a thousand Israelis and another 200 taken hostage. Israel has responded with a bombardment of air strikes that have left Gaza in ruins and more than 4,200 of its residents dead. About two million Palestinians are bearing the brunt of the Israeli response. Without basic essentials to life, including shelter and water, they have no place to find refuge from the fighting.
The scenes in the aftermath of the attack by Hamas are horrific by any standard. The living conditions in Gaza are a match. “I’m speaking, I’m sure, for everybody that’s here. We condemn violence against any human. A human is a human,” Rimaz Abakar told the protesters before the group began their march. “Everybody deserves respect and their basic necessities, their basic freedom and their basic rights. To see people coming out, regardless of their religion ethnic backgrounds or their political affiliations…to come out and to say ‘stop the violence, enough is enough’ is heartwarming.”
Later, in front of MPP Sheehan’s office, Sean Halliday read a message from Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Vezeau-Allen, who was unable to attend: “I do not support the actions of Hamas and Hezbollah. I do not condone
the violent attacks on innocent citizens of both Gaza and Israel, and I hope with a ceasefire, peace can return, to the many people that were affected by the senseless violence.”
Afterward, Halliday shared more personal thoughts on the origins of a conflict that has raged for seven decades. “It’s been a failure of international and diplomacy,” said Halliday. “It’s been a failure to hold improper behaviour to account. I think, too, that if you look at the origins of the creation of the state of Israel, the decision-making is very problematic in that, a third party, Britain, giving away the land without
the consent or even consultation with the local people there, so I think it’s unsurprising that we have these problems today.”
Later, Adam Hayward spoke to the crowd and told them of how viewing atrocities on the West Bank years ago affected him deeply. “I remember I called my Mom and just cried and cried and cried. It touched me and changed me to my core, when I came to the realization and the truth of what’s going on.”
He concluded by telling them, “I am here with you” and that hopefully they can all help bring change.
“War is explosive. At the end of the day, it ends up being largely for political reasons and resource extraction,” Hayward said. “And it’s the common people who end up suffering. That method has be utilized for a very long time, globally. It’s not something that’s new. I’m not pointing a finger or choosing sides in any sort of debate here, just saying violence is a means to an end. With innocent people, children (facing) blockades of medicine, food, electricity and clean water…that’s not the way to achieve anything.”
Hayward sang The American Indian Movement song for the crowd. It’s an inter-tribal song he describes as “a kind of anthem” of the indigenous struggle in North America.
Pat Carter led the gathering in a prayer for peace. Some set candles just outside Terry Sheehan’s office.
The group then marched back to the Civic Centre, picking up their boisterous call for a ceasefire and drawing some supportive car horns in response.
It was a group plea as much as a protest, a call for rights as much as a response to war. There were warm wishes shared on a chilly Friday night for an end to hostility. With an escalation in the fight looming, with massive demonstrations occurring on the other side of the world on the same day, seeking that same ceasefire and some semblance of peace, the timing and the message seemed right