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Justice for Jenin, Freedom for Palestine

by Jess Sundin and Matt Haas and Jill Lipski |
May 18, 2002
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Civil disobedience in Minneapolis
Civil disobedience to demand justice for Jenin. More photos can be viewed at ( Hannon)

Minneapolis, MN - 14 demonstrators were arrested here, May 15, after committing civil disobedience in solidarity with the Palestinians of Jenin. The demonstration, called by the Anti-War Committee, slammed U.S. funding of the Israeli military and demanded justice for the Palestinians massacred by the Israeli army in the Jenin refugee camp.

After waiting 10 hours for protesters to be released, Anh Pham, a member of the Anti-War Committee said, "Compared to what Israel is doing with U.S. funding, it was unjust for people to be arrested and jailed for such minor offenses. What kept me going until 4:00 a.m. was the knowledge that the Palestinian people have had to wait for over 50 years - and they're still waiting for justice."

Palestinians continue to report that their homes are destroyed, their land is seized, their water supply is cut off, medical assistance is obstructed, innocent civilians are killed and that these crimes are covered up. The racist state of Israel and its military carry out these human rights violations with funding by U.S. taxpayers' dollars.

150 Demand Justice

150 demonstrators united in front of the Minneapolis Federal Building to demand justice for Jenin. Protesters marched in a picket line, their voices crying out "Justice for Jenin! Freedom for Palestine!"

The demonstration soon gathered into a funeral procession. A eulogy was read for the Palestinian victims of Jenin. When the funeral procession approached the front of the Federal Building, a group of demonstrators broke away and occupied all of the entrances to the building. Using coffins and their own bodies, protesters blocked the doors. Bloody sheets, handprints, and Palestinian flags also decorated the doors and walls, and two banners were hung above the entrance doors.

As the group chanted and sang out, "I'll do jail time to fight a war crime," three demonstrators were arrested at the side entrance, as was one who was hanging a banner off the building. Later, the rest of the group marched over to re-occupy the side entrance, but police hesitated to remove them.

Next, the group marched into a busy intersection, where they blocked hundreds of cars in rush hour traffic. Within a minute, police began dragging protesters to police cruisers. The legal demonstration continued with the deafening cry, "The people united will never be defeated!" The men were placed in squad cars, and the women rocked the police wagon they were locked in to the rhythm of the chant.

11 demonstrators were jailed until 4:00 in the morning. A week later, in court, two demonstrators had charges dropped. With the help of attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild, the rest of the demonstrators pled guilty to a petty misdemeanor (equal to a parking ticket) and had no fines imposed upon them.

Racist Cops

Protesters were angered by racist comments from police during the demonstration, in jail, and while activists sat outside the jail to await the release of those arrested.

Protester Jason Goray wore a shirt that read, "Dead refugee - paid for by U.S. tax $," to expose the killings of innocent people in Palestine. A cop looked at his shirt and was witnessed saying, "money well spent." Another protester wore a kafiyah on his head. Police called him a "towel head."

Palestinian activist Sabry Wazwaz said, "They shouldn't have made the remarks they made, for example, 'look at you guys, you bunch of filthy slobs.' They are racist cops."

Civil Disobedience Success

Participants in the civil disobedience and the legal protest agreed that the demonstration was a powerful statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thousands of bystanders and commuters witnessed the demonstration. All the local television and radio stations reported on the event. Demonstrator Rick Jacobs said, "The word is out. The whole world will eventually know about the atrocities that the Israelis committed at Jenin."

Mohammed Hannon, a photographer whose family is from Jenin, said of the civil disobedience, "These are some hard-working people who really believe in this cause. I was amazed. It's not even about this act, it goes beyond this act. Even the song by Jason - 'I'm gonna do jail time to fight a war crime.' It's not just words, it means a lot."

Katie Bonn got a similar reaction. "It seemed to be empowering for Arab and Muslim communities to see that people not directly affected by the conflict are willing to take a stand against Zionist racism." She told Fight Back!, "I wanted to show the public that there are those of us here who understand what is really going on and that it's something that we will not tolerate."

Participants say they are inspired to include more civil disobedience in the future actions. Jennifer Molina said, "Civil disobedience is always a good idea. I think the weak, false democracy that we live in forces us to break laws that repress us, and to use those laws - by breaking them - so that we can demonstrate how strongly we feel about something. This kind of action says, 'Your laws mean nothing to us. You are not our voice, we are exercising our voice.'"

In a strong voice, Minnesota says, "Long Live Palestine!"