“From Turtle Island to Palestine, occupation is a crime.”
This was among the many chants echoed alongside the honking of car horns from a pro-Palestine demonstration on May 15. The demonstration took place at Kingston’s Springer Market Square.
One counter-protestor attended the event.
The protest was organized due to the flare-up of violence in the decades-old conflict between Palestine and Israel; specifically, the escalation caused by the pending eviction of Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
The fighting in the region has tragically caused deaths of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
“I was personally inspired by Palestinians who were protesting in their own lands despite what was happening to them. I was also inspired by protests around Canada and North America in the lead up to the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba,” Yara Hussein, ArtSci ’23, the principal organizer of the protest, said in an interview with The Journal.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, most protestors wore masks and maintained social distance; others remained in their cars.
“We followed COVID protocols, we closed off the roads in downtown, and it was phenomenal to see so many people show up,” Hussein said.
According to Hussein, there was a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and faiths who came out in support of Palestine.
“We also had Jewish-identifying faculty and students attend, along with members of an organization called ‘Independent Jewish Voices,’” Hussein said. “Students of many different faiths attended, and we were there in solidarity for Palestinian liberation.”
Hussein, who isn’t Palestinian but has roots in Egypt, has been heavily involved with activism and the pro-Palestine movement from a young age.
“Ever since I was ten years old, I have attended pro-Palestine demonstrations. As I grew older, I learned more about the issues at play on Palestinian land and my identity in terms of that land.”
“I am a Muslim, and I am a human, I believe it is my duty to advocate for human rights anywhere around the world,” Hussein said.
Hussein also recognized that the protest in Kingston didn’t compare in scale to protests in larger cities like Toronto. Nonetheless, she made it clear that protesting is important to build solidarity.
Another issue brought up by Hussein was the rise in anti-Semitic violence in Canada, which has caused many Jewish Canadians to feel a sense of unease. Hussein said the goal of these protests is not to spread any type of anti-Semitism or hate towards the Jewish community.
“Those that spew any kind of hatred against Jewish people are not a part of the movement we are creating. We want freedom for all,” she said.
Hussein added that activism does not simply end with attending or organizing a protest. It includes raising funds, writing to politicians, such as one’s local MPs, and liaising with organizations who are working on the ground for the good of civilians and dispossessed people.
“Every individual who fundraises for organizations does so in a manner that best represents their own principles. For me, that is sending money to families I know personally in Gaza.”
Hussein said it’s important that student at Queen’s continues to advocate for issues they believe in.
“We have immense amounts of privilege living on Turtle Island. The Palestinian movement is very interconnected as this is a fight for Indigenous rights and human rights at the most basic level.”
Hussein noted that it’s important for people to continue to use their presence on social media to help fundraise and donate at their capacity.
“We must also boycott any products that support the IDF [Israel Defense Force]. We also need to hold Queen’s University responsible for any assets that supports the IDF.”
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