Elan group protests for Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire

SPEAK OUT—Student and organizer of the pro-Palestinian protest, Rin Sanchez, speaks to the crowd in the free speech area at East Los Angeles College. He stands next to a Palestinian flag while holding the script of his speech.CN/ Jarielle johnson

By James Archer

A peaceful pro-Palestinian protest sparked a student community to form a possible Justice for Palestine group in the East Los Angeles Community against violence in Gaza.

ELAC student Rin Sanchez organized the protest in the Free Speech area.

The protest featured five pro-Palestinian speakers: Monterey Park City Council member Jose Sanchez, professors Khetam Dahi, Juan Silva and Beatriz Tapia. The featured speakers said they are against what has been happening for the past few months in Gaza and the 75-year occupation of Palestine.

Rin Sanchez said he organized the protest to demand a cease-fire and to send a message to the Los Angeles Community College District to divest from Israel. 

Jose Sanchez said a couple weeks ago the city passed a cease-fire resolution.

“It’s not about being on the right side of history it’s about doing the right thing,” Jose Sanchez said.

Dahi of the English Department expressed her concerns of the US’ lack of sympathy. 

“What I don’t understand is how the world is just standing still while all these college students are protesting all around the world and all over social media, and still nothing is being done. What really gets me is the hypocrisy. In this country we pride ourselves on caring for children’s lives, but it seems (the United States) only cares about certain children,” Dahi said.

The pro-Palestine movement is something personal to Dahi, who is originally from Syria. She said she is familiar with the situation as part of Syria is still occupied by Israel.

“I’m a human who cares about other humans’ lives. Palestinian people are human too, and the genocide that’s been happening the last few months, I’m against. I am for a cease-fire immediately and permanently,” Dahi said.

With less than 20 people at the start of the protest, Rin Sanchez used the first few minutes to introduce himself and gave a speech. 

He read a few quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “Beyond Vietnam” before moving onto passionately describing an incident known as the Flour Massacre. 

The Flour Massacre occurred in Gaza City on Feb. 29 when Israeli soldiers opened fire into a crowd of starving Palestinians, killing 118 and injuring 760, who were gathered to collect food from an aid convoy. 

“We stand for anyone under persecution, and we stand against anyone committing genocide,”  Rin Sanchez said.

Rin Sanchez said that’s why the community of ELAC needs to send a message to President Joe Biden and prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu that genocide will not be tolerated. 

The crowd cheered.

Silva said every morning when he wakes up the first images he sees are horrifying and sad—more dead children, men and women, people under rubble, limbs and eyes popping out of sockets. He said it feels as if the world is allowing this to happen.

“Forty-thousand people are dead and 70% are women and children. I thought that ‘Never Again’ meant never again for anybody,” Silva said.

Statistics from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have changed from approximately 70% of total Palestinian fatalities being women and children on May 6. 

As of May 13, OCHA’s statistics show approximately 52% of identified fatalities were women and children and the total number of Palestinian fatalities as approximately 35,000.

ELAC student Jimmy Ochoa interrupted Silva to loudly mention the Tribe of Nova music festival, a festival impacted by the Hamas attack that occurred on Oct. 7.

Israel said around 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas attack of Oct. 7. 

As Ochoa tried to say it was Hamas that carried out that attack, Silva with a loudspeaker began to repeat himself. 

“Forty-thousand people dead, women and children dead, bombed, carpet bombed, bulldozed,” Silva said.

Hassan Tehfi, a student at ELAC said to Ochoa to bring him the statistics from the past 75 years of how many children have died since.

“You can’t love the Palestinian people and love genocide at the same time,” Tehfi said.

For a moment during the protest tensions rose, the crowd of more than 50 in the assembly started to shout “Free Palestine” until Ochoa walked away to debate Tehfi from the crowd.

“We’re not here to debate. We’re here to show support for the Palestinian people,” Dahi said.

Beatriz Tapia, department chair of Chicano studies spoke about the challenge of being silenced so easily.

“This morning when I got to campus, I was really bothered by the presence of so much policing. It is infuriating that the presence makes it feel like we are doing something wrong,” Tapia said.

Dean of student services, Sonia Lopez said the college wanted to make sure they supported the students with their right to free speech.

They hoped students would hear both sides because it is protests like this that help educate students on what’s happening across the country.

Continue on Protest: Students rally for Palestine.

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