Members of the Kingston community gathered to rally for ceasefire in Palestine last week.
As part of the Pan-Canadian Day of Action, a protest took place in downtown Kingston on Nov. 12. Over 800 protestors in attendance urged the Government of Canada to call for a ceasefire in Gaza on the international stage. CeasefireNOW, and an ad-hoc coalition of over 200 pan-Canadian labour, faith, and civil society organizations, coordinated protests all over Canada.
Attendees gathered in front of Kingston City Hall, chanting “free, free Palestine,” and “end the occupation now.” Protesters carried signs and banners while some wore the keffiyeh—a black and white checkered scarf—to show solidarity with Palestinian people.
A banner leading the rally outlined the protesters’ three demands: “End Canada’s Complicity, Free Palestine, and Stop the Siege.”
The protest moved from City Hall in a slow march up Brock St., then back down Princess St. The march stopped in front of the Starbucks at Princess and Wellington St., with demonstrators chanting “boycott Starbucks” and “stop funding genocide.”
Primarily student-run, organizing groups included Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at Queen’s (SPHR), Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and Kingston Peace Council.
After the chanting and the opening speech by Yara Hussein, ArtSci ’24, around 50 Muslim attendees prayed asr salah—the midday prayer. Attendees knelt in front of Springer Market Square and used their own portable prayer mats and jackets to create space for prayer.
Other protestors waited for the rally to begin, gathering around those praying.
SPHR Events Outreach Coordinator Layth Malhis, ConEd ’24, told The Journal the purpose of the protest was to demand the Canadian Government call for a ceasefire.
“[The Federal Government should] go beyond just a ceasefire, end the siege on Gaza, and raise attention to the fact that the people in Gaza have lived the most brutal life for the last 17 years, living in an open-air prison,” Malhis said.
The situation in Gaza is dire, Malhis explained. Since Oct. 7, there have been 270 attacks on healthcare facilities inside the Gaza Strip with 21 of 35 hospitals now out of service. Over 11,000 civilians have been killed, according to Al Jazeera.
Two weeks ago, during the Nov. 4 Canada-Wide March for Gaza in Kingston, a car rammed into a group of protesters. Later, another car attempted to do the same. While no one was injured, SPHR took additional measures to ensure the demonstration was safe.
SPHR organizers informed Kingston Police of the protest. Police vehicles patrolled the area during the demonstration. Attendees were advised to stick with the crowd, and volunteer marshals coordinated the rally.
Malhis said he was born and raised in Nablus, a city in the occupied West Bank of Palestine. Although SPHR maintained safety procedures and advised attendees to wear masks for their personal privacy, Malhis’s safety concerns look very different.
“I have lived through checkpoints. I have lived through daily humiliations,” Malhis said. “My level of personal safety is a little different than most people because my safety has been pushed to the edge.”
SPHR representatives spoke with Kingston and the Islands Member of Parliament (MP) Mark Gerretsen on Nov. 2, urging him to call for a ceasefire.
Following the meeting, Gerretsen released a statement affirming Israel’s right to defend itself, while expressing support for the Government of Canada’s response in Palestine, citing $60 million in humanitarian assistance announced for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Malhis told The Journal Gerretsen lacked understanding of Palestinian history and culture. When Malhis told Gerretsen he knew and was friends with Christian Palestinians, this surprised Gerretsen. Malhis explained key points of Palestinian history to the MP.
“I had to tell [Gerretsen] we’re not as religious and fanatical as he thought,” Malhis said. “We had to, step by step, explain to him our humanity and our love for life.”
The statement doesn’t adequately address Palestinians’ concerns, Malhis explained. He said there’s a moral imperative to call for a ceasefire.
Malhis expressed disappointment over the current discourse around Palestine at Queen’s. He believes Palestinian voices need to be amplified rather than silenced and the key issue that needs to be highlighted is the fact that Palestinians are dying,
“All we’re doing is having these conversations but nothing is being done to target the main power players, which are our administration and our political officials, to call for a ceasefire,” Malhis said.
“We don’t care about who does what. We just want a ceasefire to be called. We want Israel to stop committing genocide against Palestinians.”
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