Thousands of people rallied across Australia this weekend in solidarity with Palestine, as Israel’s “complete siege” of Gaza wore on. The peaceful protests seen in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane joined gatherings across the world in the US, UK, Switzerland, Italy, Morocco and Ireland.
In Melbourne, police estimated 10,000 people met at the Victorian State Library to rally in support of Palestinians. Posters declared “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, “Nakba – ongoing ethnic cleansing since 1948” and “apartheid, wrong in South Africa, wrong in Palestine”. The Melbourne rally heard speeches from representatives of the Palestinian diaspora, as well as from the Muslim, Aboriginal and Jewish communities.
Outgoing Greens senator Janet Rice led chants of “free Palestine” and drew parallels from the situation in Palestine to the “racism and the brutal oppression and attempted genocide of Australia’s First Nations people”. Rice called for solidarity and “for the pain and conflict to end”.
“Supporting Palestine doesn’t mean supporting Hamas, we all know that,” said another speaker. “Raising your voice and protesting in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters is Australian. That is an Australian thing to do, it is a human thing to do.”
“We are literally watching, every day, every minute, every second. We’ve had to drag our elders from their homes. We have had to watch genocide happen, and then we have had to listen to people telling us that we were the bad guys,” a Palestinian speaker said, to resounding calls of “shame” from the crowd.
Chants of “free Palestine” filled the city as floods of supporters marched down Swanston Street.
Meanwhile, in Sydney, protesters gathered in Hyde Park for a static rally in spite of the week’s tensions between organisers, NSW Police and NSW Premier Chris Minns. Last week, Minns said he backed NSW Police’s plan to use “extraordinary powers” to search protesters without reason, saying they were justified given a pro-Palestine rally held on Monday “descended into racism” and “acts of violence” on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.
Earlier that week, Minns had announced the Sydney Opera House would be lit blue and white “in solidarity with the Jewish Communities across New South Wales”.
A snap Sydney rally, organised by the Palestine Action Group Sydney and titled “Rally for a Free Palestine: No war on Gaza”, protested this and Australia’s ties to Israel and urged for “solidarity with Palestine”. The rally was joined by a “small group of 20 or so” who lit flares, chanted antisemitic comments, and burnt Israeli flags. Protest organisers have said they were not related to the larger gathering and that Palestinian organisers, activists and elders were disgusted by the action.
Assistant commissioner Tony Cooke told Guardian Australia after the Sunday event in Sydney that the gathering in Hyde Park was “largely peaceful” and the hundreds of police officers deployed did not make any arrests.
The Palestinian Action Group Sydney co-organiser, Josh Lee, told supporters at the Hyde Park rally organisers had already submitted paperwork to police to hold another march through Sydney’s CBD next Saturday.
This weekend, Israel ordered 1.1 million Palestinians to leave their homes and move south, ahead of a forecasted ground invasion, sparking panic among civilians and aid workers on the seventh day of the Israel-Hamas war. Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been hounded under Israeli airstrikes and a supplies blockade, preventing the entry of food, water, fuel and medicine from Egypt to the area.
Palestinians have resisted Israeli occupation of their lands for more than a century, since a British declaration promised “a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine,” in an area with a 90% Palestinian Arab Indigenous population.
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