Rally draws Palestine supporters
"Free Palestine" was the message on the mouths and minds of 300 people at a rally in Garden Place during a nationwide Day of Action.
Organiser Shayma'a Arif said the rally was the first of its kind that she had seen in the Waikato, and planned to host more events raising awareness about the situation in Gaza. "We would like to do a march, but at the moment we're trying to find a location we can march to."
People from all walks of life carried banners proclaiming "Let Gaza Live", "Stop the killing of God's children" and "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" during the Saturday event.
"It was so humbling to see so many people represented by different groups," Arif said.
A small group of people bearing Israeli flags set up camp at the back of the protest, but did not disrupt the rally, Arif said.
"They were there doing what they wanted to do and we were doing what we wanted to do, and after a while they packed up and left."
Arif said Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists gathered at the rally. Among the guest speakers was Wintec tutor John Mandelberg, who is Jewish.
Attendee Eman Khalas, a Muslim living in Hamilton, said she went along in support of the innocent people being attacked in Gaza. "I see these innocent children being murdered. I lost a child at birth so I know the feeling of a mother or father losing their child. People need to know we are not happy with what is happening."
The rally was organised by the Students for Justice in the Middle East and the Hamilton Palestinian Human Rights Campaign, said Arif, who's an Iraqi-Syrian law and political sciences student.
The rally prompted the formation of the campaign group, who have said this is "just the beginning" of events promoting justice for Palestinians.
"This [rally] isn't a one off thing. It's not going to go away, this," committee member Bruce Clark said.
Clark said the group, which at present has about nine members, was looking to subscribe to a global campaign by the Palestinian Civil Society called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), that advocates using economic pressure against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.
Clark stressed that the group was "not anti-Semitic, we are pro-humanity".
Rallies also took place in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Whangarei, Hawke's Bay and Wellington.