Milwaukee, WI - It snowed, yet hundreds gathered outside the Milwaukee Federal Building here, in the late afternoon, Jan. 6, for the "Stop Israeli Invasion of Gaza!" rally.
Initiated by student anti-war and solidarity activists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the protest gave voice to people who want an end to U.S. support of Israeli’s assault on Palestinians.
Rally organizers estimate at least 300 people were present, the result of good networking between the student anti-war and solidarity movement, the peace movement and the Muslim communities of Milwaukee.
"While it is a tragic occasion that brought us together, it has been an honor to work with brave Palestinians," commented Rachel Metteson of Milwaukee Students for a Democratic Society.
The rally began with more bad news from Gaza from the morning news: Reports of more than 500 Palestinians dead, an Israeli bombing of a UN school and of Israel censoring journalists in the area.
At one point, the protesters gathered to hear speeches from various community leaders, including Julie Enslow, the 2008 Lifetime Peacemaker Award winner and Othman Atta, the President of the Milwaukee Islamic Center.
Two days before, Atta, in reading a statement of latest events to an audience of over 500 at an Islamic community center, condemned Israel's invasion. Atta called Gaza "the largest open air prison in the world" and later stated, "Israel's problem with Hamas is not its military ability, its rockets or its ideology. Hamas's crime lies in its continued unwillingness to kowtow to Israeli demands." This statement came to the roaring approval of the audience.
A counter-demonstration was announced to the employees of 12-story, block-long Federal building. This brought legal observers, white arm banded ‘peace makers’ and more police to the scene, however not a single counter-demonstrator arrived. Those who deserved attention the most - the people fighting for justice in Palestine - received all the media attention.
Cosponsoring organizations of the rally included Jews for Justice, Progressive Students of Milwaukee, American Muslims for Palestine, Milwaukee Students for a Democratic Society, Peace Action Wisconsin, Greater Milwaukee Green Party, Muslim Student Association at UWM and MAS Freedom Foundation.
Student Organizers from American Muslims for Palestine, Milwaukee Students for a Democratic Society and Jews for Justice have already discussed more possibilities of protest in the near future.