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Civil disobedience protests catastrophic treatment of Palestinians

by Meredith Aby-Keirstead |
May 26, 2005
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Minneapolis, MN - Over fifty protesters demonstrated on Monday, May 16, at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, to commemorate the tragedy of Al-Nakba - Arabic for ‘the catastrophe.’ The demonstration was organized by the Anti-War Committee to mark the destruction of 415 Palestinian villages and the creation of almost 1 million Palestinian refugees between 1947 and 1950.

Sabry Wazwaz, a Palestinian-American member of the Anti-War Committee explained the importance the Al-Nakba action, “Al-Nakba is about the land and how people were murdered. People saw their moms and dads or their kids killed right in front of them. In Deir Yassin, people were given 10 minutes to get out and were murdered. For people anywhere not to remember or know about this tragedy is forgetting about what happened to innocent people.”

After a rally at the Government Center, the demonstrators marched to the Federal Building a block away to protest the $13 million a day in military aid the U.S. sends to Israel and the U.S.’s support for the building of the ‘security wall’ through the West Bank. Eight activists did civil disobedience to highlight Israel’s destruction of Palestinian lands by building the wall. They took over the intersection next to the Federal Building for a half an hour before they were arrested for obstructing traffic and refusing to obey police orders.

“The lives of the people in Palestine are obstructed every day because of checkpoints and the wall,” said Anh Pham, a member of the Anti-War Committee. “The action was to symbolize what it’s like to have your life obstructed.”

Katie Molm, another Anti-War Committee member participated in her first act of civil disobedience on Al Nakba because, “The Wall steals peoples’ land and water supply, cuts people off from the outside world, and prevents people from getting medical attention or other necessary services. The U.S. funding and support of these human rights abuses is outrageous, especially given the lack of honest information by the media. I decided to block the road to try to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and to bring people in the U.S.’s attention to this issue.”

Nick Groenke, a high school student with Youth Against War and Racism, did civil disobedience and explained; “I think that activism is especially important for those of us under 18. Voting adults have the power to make decisions that will affect us for years to come. It’s important that we have a say in making sure those are the right decisions.”

Kara Ferguson also participated in the civil disobedience. She summarized her motivations: “It was important for me to be involved in this action because this was an opportunity to bring attention to Al-Nakba, and what is going on every day in Palestine. A moment of inconvenience for drivers here is nothing in comparison to the daily struggle that Palestinians must endure.”

Seven of the eight activists who were arrested will appear for their first court date on May 23. The eighth activist has yet to receive a court date.

The Anti-War Committee was born out of a civil disobedience at Rep. Martin Olaf Sabo's office in 1998 in protest of his support for sanctions on the Iraqi people. The Anti-War Committee uses a variety of tactics including educating the public, lobbying politicians, organizing demonstrations, and sometimes breaking the law through civil disobedience to try to raise awareness about the real impacts of US foreign policy. This is the committee’s second civil disobedience action in support of the Palestinian people. The first was organized also in commemoration of Al-Nakba with the call for Justice for Jenin after the Israeli massacre at Jenin refugee camp during the spring of 2002.