Members of Chicago’s Jewish community calling for a cease-fire in Gaza blocked rush hour traffic in the Loop during a protest Monday evening.
Dozens of protesters linked arms and shut down the intersection of Ida B. Wells Drive and Clark Street around 4:30 p.m., singing “free Gaza now” and “not in our name.” Traffic was blocked for more than an hour before police began clearing the demonstrators.
The protest was organized by local chapters of Jewish-led organizations IfNotNow, Never Again Action and Jewish Voice for Peace. They are calling for Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to support an immediate cease-fire.
More than 70 protesters were issued citations for obstructing traffic, according to Chicago police. No arrests were made, and no injuries were reported.
Ashley Bohrer, with Jewish Voice for Peace, says acts of civil disobedience are necessary when elected officials ignore the wishes of their constituents.
“Civil disobedience is a public service,” Bohrer said. “When we call our representatives, and we write to them, when we stand outside their offices and they do nothing, what they are saying is that they will only listen to further escalation.”
Bohrer said the protest was meant to show the Israeli and U.S. governments that not all Jewish people agree with the measures being taken against the Palestinian people in the wake of Hamas’ attack.
Deanna Othman, a Palestinian American, read messages she has received from family still in Gaza to the hundreds of protesters gathered.
One of the messages read, “We are not OK, we have no dreams, nothing remains,” Othman said. “We only pray that we come out of this alive with our bodies intact, with our families alongside us, without having to lose anyone or any of us dying ourselves. That is all we dream of.”
Another read: “This is the first time in my life that I feel closest to death,” Othman said. “It is all around me, but I don’t see it. Death can kidnap me in any moment now without me realizing it. We are living the most difficult and cruel days of our lives, and yet we feel forsaken in our loneliness. We lived alone, and we die in groups. Here in Gaza the stench of death permeates all, and there is no way for us to escape it except through death.”
Othman said she hoped the Palestinian people would be granted more rights and freedoms when the conflict is finally resolved.
“We would want to have Palestinians have freedom of movement and equal access to resources and everything else that comes with citizenship,” she said.
Rabbi and educator Aryeh Bernstein said the Israeli government’s response to Hamas’ attack shouldn’t be to cause even more devastation on another people.
“I don’t think it makes any moral, logical or reasonable sense to respond to horror at the murder of civilians and children by murdering more civilians and children,” Bernstein said. “The question is: Are we opposed to the murder of children, or just the murder of our children?”