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‘Shut it down': Pro-Palestine protesters march on the streets of SLC

A protester holds a megaphone and a Palestinian flag, facing the crowd of protesters as they march in the street.
Duck Thurgood

Hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters shut down traffic in part of Salt Lake City on Tuesday evening to "Shut It Down for Palestine,” two days after Israel began bombing the city of Rafah.

The crowd marched in the streets by Pioneer Park, chanting things like, “Hey [Israel Prime Minister] Netanyahu, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?” and holding signs such as, “Why is there always enough money to bomb people but not to house or feed them?”

At each intersection, the group filled one side of the road, blocking most traffic from moving. Drivers honked, some trying to drive through the edges of the group, and eventually the police blocked off the surrounding streets entirely.

Some passerby criticized the protest for being disruptive. Protesters argued disruption was exactly the goal because, as their largest sign proclaimed, there should be “no business as usual during a genocide.”

A person standing in an intersection holds a large banner. It has a Palestinian flag in the corner and syas "Shut it down! for Palestine. No business as usual during a genocide"
Duck Thurgood
A protester holds a "Shut It Down" banner as the protesters block an intersection.

The bombing of Rafah

Since October, it’s estimated that more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the AP, with more likely unreported. The AP also reported that 43% of deaths were children and young teens.

This specific protest was one of many sparked worldwide after Israel began bombing the city of Rafahon Sunday, an area currently home to 1.5 million displaced Palestinians. Around 100 people have been confirmed dead so far, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the health ministry in Gaza, though those numbers haven’t been verified.

Rafah is the furthest southern city in Gaza, and since Israeli forces have been pushing civilians southward, this leaves civilians with few if any options for evacuation from the bombings.

“There’s nowhere left for the people of Gaza to go,” said Jacob, one speaker at the event. “No more roads to take, no more hospitals for the uncountable wounded, almost no members of the press left to document what’s happening, no food, no water. We have to act now to shut it down.”

Jacob was referencing how hundreds of health care facilities and hospitals have been attacked or destroyed, around 90 journalists have been killed and Gaza as a whole is facing massive shortages of supplies such as food, clean water, medical supplies and hygiene products.

The lack of supplies is due in part to limited entry points to bring aid in, long inspections that reject items, Israeli protesters outright blocking aid trucks from entering, and the risk of vehicles or supplies being damaged when entering bombarded areas.

Protesters’ demands

Protesters demanded a ceasefire in Gaza, but they said that was “the least” the world could do for Palestine.

“Israel must face the consequences of its violations against humanity. Palestinians must be returned and liberated to their homes,” said Muna Omar, a Palestinian and one of the speakers at the event. “This is the only way to even come close to justifying the murder and the death of all of these Palestinians over the last 108 days, over the last 75 years.”

Protesters condemned the U.S. for funding Israel’s war efforts using Americans’ “hard-earned dollars,” and criticized Utah for making drones and surveillance technology for Israel through the defense trade association 47G Coalition.

Protesters stand in an intersection, all facing a truck where a speaker stands on the truck bed and speaks. Many protesters have Palestinian flags or signs.
Duck Thurgood
Julio, one of the speakers at Tuesday's protest, addresses the crowd in the middle of the intersection.

Omar said demonstrators will shut down traffic every week until Palestine is free. Aside from protesting, she encouraged people to learn about Palestine’s history and culture to combat what she called a long history of Palestinians being dehumanized.

“Learning about Palestine, engaging in Palestinian culture, meeting Palestinians,” Omar said. “There's so many different ways that you can still get involved in a way that you're comfortable with to still continue to open your mind.”

She and other protesters also continually asked those present to keep speaking up and talk about what’s happening in Gaza and Palestine.

“Please keep having those hard conversations,” Omar said. “This is really a litmus test for our morality and for our generation when it comes to Palestine, and a lot of people will lose friends or lose jobs but you have to stand for what's right.”

Duck is a general reporter and weekend announcer at UPR, and is studying broadcast journalism and disability studies at USU. They grew up in northern Colorado before moving to Logan in 2018, so the Rocky Mountain life is all they know. Free time is generally spent with their dog, Monty, listening to podcasts, reading or wishing they could be outside more.