On Monday afternoon, a large number of individuals gathered for a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. This event took place amidst the ongoing conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
According to officials, the ongoing conflict between Hamas and the Israeli military, triggered by a sudden attack from Hamas, has resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 individuals in Gaza and certain areas of Israel.
The conflict has caused worry among Palestinians and Israelis in Vancouver. A protest at the art gallery aimed to draw attention to the significant loss of life in Gaza. This came after the Israeli defense minister’s statement on Monday, advocating for a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Around 300 protesters gathered, displaying Palestinian flags and some wearing the traditional keffiyeh scarf. They demanded an end to what they perceive as a settler-colonial occupation in the Palestinian territories.
Nasser Najjar expressed his support for his family, including his parents and two sisters, who are currently residing in Gaza. He mentioned that his people have faced oppression for more than 75 years.
He mentions that the only way he can confirm their existence is by witnessing their activity in the family WhatsApp group. However, since the conflict started, he has been mostly uninformed for more than a day.
Najjar dismissed the idea that the pro-Palestinian rally — one of many held across Canada, including in Calgary and Toronto — was in support of Hamas, the group whose attacks on Israeli civilians has drawn condemnation from some politicians including B.C. Premier David Eby.
I firmly denounce the acts of aggression by Hamas towards the Israeli population. Numerous rockets were launched at innocent civilians during a Jewish holiday. The residents of British Columbia express their solidarity with the Israeli people and support their fundamental entitlement to live in a state of tranquility and safety.
Najjar urged Western governments, including Canada, to cease their endorsement of the Israeli government and highlighted the historical origins of the conflict in the Palestinian territories.
He expressed his belief that someday we will attain freedom and expressed a wish for others to acknowledge and notice our presence.
Amal Joha, accompanied by her son Nehad al-Faraaneh, stated that the residents of Gaza have a legitimate entitlement to peaceful existence.
Through tears, she expressed her desire for Mr. Trudeau to empathize with others and bring her family, who are currently in Gaza, to Canada.
The mayor criticizes protests that are perceived as being against Israel.
The demonstration at the art gallery remained mostly peaceful and was overseen by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).
In the morning, Mayor Ken Sim of Vancouver expressed his disapproval of upcoming rallies in the city that were deemed “anti-Israel.” He also stated that the City of Vancouver condemns alleged acts of terrorism in Israel.
He stated in a statement that upon being notified about these gatherings, he had a conversation with the VPD and expressed optimism about their commitment to investigating and resolving any instances of hate.
The increasing violence in the Middle East and the attacks on Israel are causing a significant level of worry among people in our community. We are collaborating with law enforcement agencies and community leaders to guarantee the safety of everyone. Consequently, you might notice an increased presence of VPD officers patrolling certain areas to ensure security.
While the protest largely saw supporters chant in support of a “free Palestine,” a few Israeli counter-protesters showed up and were largely drowned out by the Palestinian supporters.
The presence of their arrival incited yelling and minor altercations in front of the art gallery.
According to a reporter from CBC News present at the scene, police intervened and arrested an individual involved in the altercation.
Rachel Goldberg, a participant in the counter-protest, expressed their intention to demonstrate solidarity with individuals who are losing their lives due to the actions of Hamas.
Goldberg stated that their purpose was simply to demonstrate their presence and resilience. They emphasized that attempts to intimidate or force them into hiding would no longer be effective.
I have reached out to the VPD inquiring about whether there were any charges made during or following the protest.