Protest for Palestine

Hundreds March at the State Capitol in Solidarity with Palestine.

By Elif Sahin

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine

Hundreds of community members, including University of Texas and Austin Community College students, gathered in front of the Texas Capitol in Austin to march downtown on Sunday, October 15 in protest of the ongoing genocide and occupation of Palestine. 

UT Austin’s Palestine Solidarity Committee hosted an “All Out for Palestine” protest to “honor the martyrs in the midst of an ongoing resistance against apartheid Israel” as stated on their Instagram. Protesters held signs that read ‘Stop U.S. Aid to Apartheid Israel’ and “Yup. We Exist. Jews for Palestinian Lives. Ceasefire Now’ chanting in both English and Arabic.

“It looked like we had well over a thousand people here today.” said the PSC organizer who wishes to remain anonymous for safety reasons. “It was absolutely fantastic to see the support that we get from people as opposed to the type of support we dont get from the US government, from [the] media, [and] from our educational institutions.”

“This is where change really happens,” the organizer emphasized.

A protestor speaks for Palestine in front of the Texas Capital in downtown Austin. Photo taken by Collin Eason on Oct. 15, 2023.

For context, the Gaza Strip has been carpet bombed in response to the Hamas attack that occurred October 7. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, nearly 9,500 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began a bombing and ground campaign. Thousands of civilians have been injured and are left with little to no water, food, resources, or power in most hospitals after Israel cut off electricity in Gaza more than once. 

“Civilians must be protected at all times. International humanitarian law must be respected,” the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, stated on his Instagram in response to the ongoing bombing of Gaza. “A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes… History will judge us all.”

The PSC aims to spread awareness on current events and amplify Palestinian voices. According to event organizers, “This narrative surrounding what happened [on] October 7 was that it was unprompted, when in reality, this was an effect of 75 years of occupation.”

“It’s absolutely horrible what’s going on and we denounce it completely,”  the organizer said. “They see this as an excuse to completely get rid of Palestinans… this is collective punishment, it is a war crime committed every single day, for the past 7 days and the media has no intent of pushing back on this.”

“Gaza went from an open air prison to an eradication camp,” the organizer stated.

“We want these people to not have to live scared to fall asleep and not wake up tomorrow because their house caved in on them. We want these people to have no fear that their children can go to school the next day. We want these people to have no fear that they won’t lose (someone) to an unjust arrest the next morning,” the organizer explained.. “For some reason, this is crazy to Zionists.”

The organizer proceeded to call out the speech held by President Biden during this week as well. “We saw Joe Biden get on air and spread Israeli war-mongering propaganda, that Israel intentionally disseminated, to create this false narrative around what’s going on in Palestine and in Gaza that they think gives them the right to exercise unchecked aggression against Palestinian civilians.”

“When Palestinians show peaceful protests, [they] get backlash for that. For example, in 2018 [during] the Great March of Return in Gaza, Gazans were hand-in-hand walking towards the border fence and were shot [with] live ammunition by the [Israeli Defense Forces]. Tear gas was thrown at them, and over 4,900 people were injured or killed. The whole world stayed silent for that,” the organizer said.

“These are regular everyday people like you and I. They have a right to exist, a right to their land, a right to resist. It’s enshrined in UN law,” stated the organizer. “These are fundamental rights these people have, yet their rights are being stripped away from them on an everyday basis.”

The organizer then explained how the PSC held an education teaching called ‘Palestine 101’ on October 12 about the “history leading up to today’s events in Gaza,” but the activist said they were harassed by three Israeli men in appearing to be in their thirties. Two of the three men stated they were in the IDF. According to this testimony, these three men were not UT students, yet managed to get access to university grounds and make members “feel unsafe, threatened, and intentionally target [them] with hate speech and violence.” The organizer explained how the men proceeded to call PSC members “terrorists” and told them to “wait till they’re in Israel next week killing all the Arabs.”

“This was particularly close to the Arab, Palestinian, [and] Muslim community at UT.”  they add.

In regard to UT President Jay Hartzell’s email sent to UT students about the ongoing events in the Middle East, the organizer explained how he only included a reference promising to protect Jewish students on campus. “The PSC wants to make this extremely clear. We 100% support the protection of Jewish students (on) or off UT campus. It is so important that every student at our campus has a voice, a safe space to speak, learn, and be a part of (the) community,” said the organizer. “But what Jay Hartzell said only applied to Jewish students. He intentionally marginalized (us) by leaving us out of the email- Muslim students, Palestinian students, and Arab students.”

“Where is our protection? Clearly it wasn’t there on Thursday,” the organizer emphasized. “We’re going to continue to do the work that we’re doing [whether] in safety or not.”

The PSC will be hosting more protests, such as a “Texas State-Wide Protest” on Sunday, November 12 at the Texas Capitol. The march will be to show support for the people of Gaza and to urgently demand an immediate ceasefire. PSC will also be hosting a walkout at UT in November to “call attention to UT Austin’s failure to condemn this genocide and address how it affects our on campus and broader Palestinian community.”

Photo taken by Gabriella Plasencia on Oct. 15, 2023.

“At the end of the day, what Palestinian students [and] what Palestinian organizers really want is for our people back in Palestine to be granted the basic necessities and human rights that every human in the world deserves.”