Around 300 high school students, from 20 city schools, walked out of classes on Oct. 20 to converge on Philadelphia City Hall for an incredibly energizing pro-Palestine protest. They started off their rally with chants, including “Say it loud, say it clear, Zionists not welcome here” and “Brick by brick, wall by wall – Zionism will fall.” Many carried homemade signs and Palestinian flags. While the participants at the rally were thoroughly multi-national, several speakers discussed family links to Palestine and Arab countries.
Describing the ongoing Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in areas where Palestinians were told to go “for safety,” one student named Nora, who helped organize the protest, told WHYY: “This is not a war. This is a genocide. The goals of today’s protests are to get justice, and to fight back, and to use our voices.” (Oct. 20)
A student whose family were immigrants from Tunisia spoke out against the danger of the media painting Muslims as “terrorists.” She condemned the stabbing death of a 6-year-old Muslim boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, in the Chicago area, noting how terrified her young cousins are when the corporate media raise concerns only for Israelis, but never for Palestinians who have been subject to cultural genocide for 75 years.
Another young speaker described the terror of Palestinian children waking up to sounds of bombing. “I can’t even fathom this – children losing parents every day, and parents losing children.”
Leila, another rally organizer, spoke of educating herself about Palestine after feeling frustrated by the lack of material. “I don’t understand how anyone could support the ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide and why the media keeps siding against the oppressed and goes along with people doing the oppression.”
One final speaker before the protest broke into a march that circled City Hall said: “The U.S. government is funding and supporting ethnic cleansing. The Palestinians don’t have an army to fight back.”
Each time the march circled City Hall, more youth joined the protest.
Days prior to the high school students’ action, hundreds of students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania also held walkouts from classes, with rallies and marches on campus over two successive days. UPenn has become a focal point of Zionism, including university trustees who pulled their money from funding the university after the Palestine Writes Festival was held there in September. Several students and faculty who participated in the pro-Palestine walkouts had been organizers and supporters of the festival.