By Shoham Geva, Summer Managing News Editor
Published July 18, 2014
Protesters marched around the Diag and through the Ann Arbor Art Fair for several hours Friday afternoon to encourage a boycott of Israel and raise awareness of the current loss of life in the Middle East following escalated conflict in Gaza and Israel.
Chanting ‘Free, free Palestine’ and ‘Stop bombing Gaza’, the crowd, which grew to over 100 people over the course of the protest, began in the Diag before proceeding down the main streets of the Art Fair. This is the third event on the issue in the past few weeks — Thursday, student organization Students Allied for Freedom and Equality held a candlelight vigil in the Diag to honor Palestinian victims and last week protesters held a similar event during which they marched down to Ann Arbor City Hall.
Ann Arbor resident Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, who was part of the protest, said the focus was on raising awareness of the deaths in Gaza both among individuals and among institutions in the area such as the University and the city. She said protesters plan to propose a resolution to Ann Arbor’s City Council at their meeting Monday to boycott Israel. Boycott efforts at Council meetings have occurred several times over the past couple of years.
“The idea is to withdraw institutional support from Israel,” she said. “Universities have to boycott Israel, cities have to boycott Israel so that it will stop this.”
The protest was composed of both adults and students from the area. Co-organizer Mohammad Aggour, who is in his second year in the high school program at Washtenaw Technical Middle College in Ann Arbor, said he organized the protest because he felt information about the consequences of Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza, such as loss of civilian life, were not being portrayed.
“Innocent women and children are dying in Gaza right now and the media is not doing its part of letting people know, so protesting is one of the ways that we as citizens, as people from Palestine — I’m from Egypt, my friends are from Palestine — but when I see there is inhumane actions against Palestine, against people of Gaza, it’s time to speak up and let the people know.”
The protest attracted both positive and negative attention from Art Fair attendees and other onlookers, with some people honking their horns in support and other people yelling ‘Hamas are the terrorists’ and ‘God bless Israel’ back at the protesters.
One of the people who briefly engaged with protesters, Ann Arbor resident Kelly Richter, said she responded because she thought the protest was one sided.
Some Art Fair vendors also expressed displeasure with the event. Lidia Stecher, a vendor from Indianapolis, said she thought the venue of the Art Fair wasn’t an appropriate place for any type of protest.
“All of the vendors, we pay a lot of money to be here, and we don’t want the energy of political discourse right now,” she said. “They could go on the street out there maybe, but not in here. It affects us directly to have that.”