Photo: May 2021 protest. Credit: PSL Indianapolis
This article, which covers the last mass pro-Palestine protests in recent history, was originally released on our old website on May 26, 2021. The Indianapolis Liberator is republishing it to provide a frame of reference to those new to the struggle and those who participated in 2021 and even long before.
Between May 15 and May 21, four separate events in downtown Indianapolis brought out large numbers of people in solidarity with the people of Palestine as they faced a new wave of repression and genocidal violence from the apartheid state of Israel. The four events collectively drew over a thousand protesters, in an impressive show of solidarity with Palestinians unmatched in Indianapolis’ recent history.
A collection of local organizations organized the four events, including Butler University’s and IUPUI’s Students for Justice in Palestine, ANSWER Indiana, Jewish Voice for Peace – Indiana, Indy 10 Black Lives Matter, Indy SURJ, and the Indianapolis branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Commemorating the Nakba
The first protest on May 15 was both a commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe), during which 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their indigenous homelands in 1948, as well as a demonstration on behalf of the Palestinians facing ongoing expulsion from their homes in East Jerusalem, particularly the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Over 500 people marched from Monument Circle to the grounds of the Statehouse, where a rally was held featuring speakers from political organizations as well as religious leaders.
The following Tuesday, two more events were held.
Protesters target Todd Young
At 2:30 P.M., over 100 protesters marched to the office of Indiana Senator Todd Young and demanded a meeting regarding his stance on the Palestinian issue.
The previous day, Young had voiced support for Israel and helped introduce a new resolution condemning Hamas attacks.
The purpose of the meeting, according to the event’s Facebook page, was “to demand that the Senator immediately condemn the Israeli government’s assault on Palestinians in Gaza and take steps to stop funding Israel’s brutality against Palestinians by the Israeli military and police. They should immediately introduce legislation to stop paying for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”
After several minutes of chanting outside of the Senator’s office, he agreed to speak with organizers. As could have been predicted, Young’s staff ultimately offered the tepid response that they were “watching” the situation.
Later the same day a vigil was held in honor of the lives lost in the most recent bout of Israeli attacks across Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where missiles continued to demolish large civilian apartment complexes. A crowd of well over 100 held silence for several minutes as organizers read out the names of the deceased, including many children. The protest was concluded as the numerous Palestinian Muslims in attention performed their evening prayer on the steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, watched over intimidatingly by several IMPD officers.
Another protest after Israel violates the ceasefire
Finally, on May 21, a protest was organized to continue drawing attention to the cause of Palestinian Liberation, in spite of the tenuous ceasefire agreed to by Hamas and the Israeli government the day before. Once again, protesters flooded Monument Circle, but this time reaching almost 1,000 people. Organizers rightly noted that the ceasefire was not a solution to the problem of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, but simply a brief moment of respite in the decades long struggle against Israeli settler colonialism.
Organizers also made explicit their understanding of the Palestinian struggle as part of a worldwide struggle against imperialism and racism.
Umaymah Mohammad, organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement, drew parallels between the violence experienced by Palestinians at the hands of the IDF, and the oppression of Black people in America. “On the news I watched them operate a bullet out of an infant’s chest in Gaza,” Mohammad told a crowd of hundreds on Friday:
A bullet out of an infant’s chest! And a few days ago, the footage of a black man who was beat to death was released… beat to death for 45 minutes by police! White supremacy exists from Israel to here. Our problem in Gaza, our fight for Palestine, our fight for all oppressed people everywhere starts and it will end with us. If we don’t fight, who will?
Indianapolis PSL member Noah Leininger also placed the Palestinian struggle for freedom in the wider context of a world movement for oppressed people’s liberation. Addressing the mass assembly, Leininger said:
Imperialism of the sort that the world has seen since the 1800s is a type of capitalism. In the United States, European settlers terrorized and murdered millions of indigenous and African people for centuries to carve out the American empire… In the Party for Socialism and Liberation we see all of these not as separate struggles or simply as points on a historical timeline, but as the manifestations and results of one connected class struggle, the struggle of the oppressed against their oppressors!
Indianapolis was only one of thousands of cities across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and the world that rallied to the Palestinian cause. Just as was the case for the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer, the unusually large turnout seems to signal a shift in consciousness among the public towards a more radical and liberatory politics.
Even more hopefully, it may signify a fundamental shift in world opinion towards the apartheid state of Israel, one that could open the way for Palestinians to throw off once and for all the shackles of Zionist occupation.