Protesters chanted “From Palestine to Mexico, these walls have got to go,” and “Israel is a racist state,” at the Nov. 12 protest. (Photo by John Anderson)
At the state capitol on Sunday, a staggering 10,000 Texans marched in solidarity with Palestinians to call for a cease-fire in Gaza.
By current estimates, the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 11,000, while 1,200 Israelis were killed in the October 7 Hamas attack. The crowd comprised a wide swath of ethnicities, religions, and hometowns – many bussed or drove in from Dallas, Houston, and as far as El Paso, to call for political accountability for President Joe Biden and Gov. Greg Abbott, who are both publicly supporting Israel, despite mounting outrage from humanitarian groups and the United Nations, whose experts recently described Palestinians as being “at grave risk of genocide.”
Protestors chanted “From Palestine to Mexico, these walls have got to go,” and “Israel is a racist state,” as a plane flew a banner above that read “Save Palestine, Cease Fire Now.” Many in the crowd were clothed in keffiyeh, a traditional Palestinian headscarf, carrying Palestinian flags, and some were holding bundles of white bloodstained cloth to symbolize the roughly 4,100 children, and counting, killed by Israeli forces since October 7. Speakers read their names from a 100-foot banner, and several held posters memorializing Palestinian children murdered by Israel before October 7.
A woman from Houston drove in alone for the protest, “because I’m a human. What we are witnessing is a mass slaughter that us Americans are paying for every single day.” Several protesters told the Chronicle they were appalled at their tax dollars being used to send weapons to the Israeli army. Saeed, his wife Khadija, and their two children came in on a bus from Houston “to support the right of Palestinians for resistance. You want to look for peace, end occupation.”
Sara, a Palestinian-American 19-year-old who came in from Dallas, has family near Gaza, who are so far unharmed. She said she came to the protest because “it’s really important to get the message across that we need to have a cease-fire. We’re all gathered here. I like that there’s so many people. If you see what’s going on, you should be here.”
Many Jewish Texans attended to send a message that the Israeli government does not speak for them: “I’m a Jew, and I’m not a Zionist, and I oppose the illegal occupation of Palestine,” said Austinite Ronnie Gelman. “There are many, many Jews in the world who are not Zionists, who do not support the existence of the State of Israel. It doesn’t mean we disagree with having a connection to the land of Israel, but it means we do not believe that we should get to occupy Palestine at the expense of Palestinian lives.”
Austinite Katie Goldstein told the Chronicle she is “so disgusted by the genocide that’s being committed in my name as a Jewish person, so I’m here to call for a cease-fire and the end of the occupation of Palestine. Part of being a Jewish person is being able to be critical of what is done and said in our name – the occupation has never matched Jewish values of peace, justice, liberation. There are hundreds of thousands of Jewish people across the country, across Israel, across the world, that are saying, ‘not in our name.’”
Texans’ massive show of horror for Israel’s retaliatory attack on Gaza’s civilians contrasts with elected officials’ relative silence – last week a small group of protesters asked Mayor Kirk Watson to issue a statement of support for Palestinians as he did for Israelis after the October 7 Hamas attack, but so far the mayor has stayed silent on the issue. The Palestinian Solidarity Committee, which organized Sunday’s protest, also organized a UT-Austin walkout on Thursday wherein 1,200 students left classes to call for a cease-fire and an end to UT’s investment in weapons manufacturers selling to Israel, the Statesman reported. They also asked UT President Jay Hartzell to issue a statement acknowledging violence against Palestinians, which he has yet to do. Hartzell emailed students twice in October, announcing increased security for Jewish students and condemning Hamas’ October 7 attack.
One older man from Dallas, Samdar Ali, broke down in tears on Sunday when asked why he drove in: “What is happening right now, it is ridiculous … I don’t have any words. Killing innocent children… I can’t say more.” His friend Shakil from the same mosque in Dallas continued: “This is against humanity – they are human beings, not animals.”
Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.