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March 30 vigil draws 250 for Palestinian rights


More than 250 people gathered for a candlelight vigil on Saturday evening, March 30 on Chicago's Gold Coast, as part of a national day of action in support of the Palestinian people. While some passers-by were clearly irritated by the vigil, others joined the group to lend their support. (article 1)


More than 250 people gathered for a candlelight vigil on Saturday evening, March 30, outside the 4th Presbyterian Church at the corner of Delaware and Michigan Ave. as part of a national day of action in support of the Palestinian people.





The action was scheduled originally to coincide with international observances of ‘Land Day’, an annual day of remembrance by Palestinians and their supporters of a 1976 protest against Israeli land confiscation in which six Palestinians were killed and hundreds more injured and jailed. The focus of the event was shifted to oppose Israel's most recent incursions into Palestinian territory, which escalated dramatically on Friday.





Participants called for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, an end to Israeli military and settler violence against Palestinians, and end to U.S. aid to Israel, and for support the right of return for Palestinian refugees whose land and property has been seized by the Israeli government, military and settlers.





Organizers demanded that the Bush Administration stop tacitly sanctioning Israeli violence and stop impeding the full implementation of international law and United Nations resolutions calling for an end of the Israeli occupation and the Right of Return for the Palestinian people.





Those demands drew an interesting mix of responses from passers-by. Many seemed deeply irritated that hundreds of Chicagoans had the audacity to gather in Chicago's premier Gold Coast shopping district and shatter comfort consumerism with disturbing images of Israeli violence against Palestinians. One man attempted to provoke a confrontation by muscling in front of television cameras to denounce Palestinians. Several couples hissed as they walked by, and one middle-aged woman shouted at protesters to move back on the sidewalk and watch out for 'the children' as she dragged a small child at her side past a photo of a Palestinian baby shot dead by Israeli troops.





But other passersby were supportive. Two African American teenagers from Detroit said they were disturbed by what Israel was doing in Palestine and encouraged protesters to 'keep up the good work', and another tourist from Minneapolis was so moved by the vigil as she passed that she came back to join the protesters and stand in solidarity with them.





Saturday's vigil was sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Group and the Palestine Aid Society. Endorsers included the Chicago Islamic Center, the ISO, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism.


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