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A March for Gaza on MLK Day

And more links to kick off your Tuesday.

9:26 AM EST on January 16, 2024

Sign at a pro-Gaza protest in New York City.
(Hell Gate)

Hundreds of protesters donned winter gear to gather in Union Square on Monday for the MLK Day March for Healthcare, organized by Within Our Lifetime and Healthcare Workers for Palestine to draw attention to the dire medical situation in Gaza and continue the call for a ceasefire after 100 days of bombing. An NYPD drone hovered over the rally as a few dfozen cops waited testily behind the crowd. An organizer in teal scrubs and a keffiyeh quoted Dr. King’s address on the three entwined evils of racism, poverty, and militarism; then, Within Our Lifetime Chair Nerdeen Kiswani recited statistics about the dire state of Gaza’s medical system—only six functional ambulances for a population of almost two million people, only nine partially functioning hospitals, hundreds of healthcare workers killed, one out of every hundred people in Gaza dead. Then, Kiswani read a missive from a doctor working at Al-Aqsa Hospital in the center of the occupied territory, which he sent to her a few days earlier.

"From the echo of broken laws, from the whispers of shattered dreams, my voice joins you today my fellow seekers of justice, sending a clearer message: That we will never be silenced," she read, the sentiment conjuring cheers from the onlookers. "The clock ticks incessantly, marking 97 days of fear, displacement, death, and deafening silence. My life, once filled with cherished memories, now lies in tattered remnants. Still, with every sunrise, I cling to the fragile hope that this relentless nightmare will someday fade into memory." 

Recent headlines related to the hospital tell the same story, less poetically: "Blackout in Gaza’s Al-Aqsa Hospital as fuel runs out, babies at high risk," "Hope dwindles for Gaza's Al-Aqsa Hospital as Israel's drones close in," "This American is one of the few allowed into Gaza. This is the horror she saw."

The rally soon morphed into a traffic-halting march with two designated stops: One at United Nations headquarters, and the other at Gracie Mansion. As the crowd traveled uptown, protesters lofted homemade stretchers and small bundles wrapped in white to represent the Palestinian death toll—in particular, the estimated 12,000 children who have been killed by Israeli firepower and Israeli forces. Some onlookers cheered, or waved from apartment buildings—one person stuck a keffiyeh out of the window of a seamless glass skyscraper, eliciting glee from the protesters. A cab driver honked his horn in support of the march, chanting, "Free, free Palestine!" Other people, witnessing the mass marching down Park Avenue, simply whipped out their phones to film the procession. As the march reached its first stop outside of U.N. headquarters on First Avenue, protesters draped banners over an entrance to the 1st Avenue Tunnel: "Zionism is genocide" and "Honor the martyrs of Palestine." 

The march was notable for its size on such a cold January day, and chants from the crowd were muffled by KN95s and layers of cold-weather clothing. But actions like this have become relatively commonplace over the last hundred-odd days in the city, where other pro-Palestine protesters have scaled the Statue of Liberty, flooded the lobby of the New York Times, interrupted the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and blocked commuter arteries like Grand Central Station; the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges; and the Holland Tunnel. As the deaths continue, New Yorkers, it seems, will continue to carry the torch.

Katie Way

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