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‘All out for Palestine’ protest sees 2,000 at Houston City Hall


Protesters march up Walker Street toward Houston City Hall. More than 2,000 demonstrators gathered for the “All out for Palestine” protest Oct. 14. Camille Kao / Thresher

By Maria Morkas and Prayag Gordy     10/17/23 11:19pm

Rice Students for Justice in Palestine, the Palestinian Youth Movement and other groups led a protest in support of Palestine at Houston City Hall Oct. 14. More than 2,000 demonstrators attended, according to the Houston Police Department.

The protest began at 2 p.m. at Hermann Square in front of City Hall, where organizers started chants and gave speeches. Many protesters brought their own posters and Palestinian flags, while others borrowed from the organizers of the protest.

Almost two hours into the event, protesters left the park, marching in a one-mile loop through downtown Houston. The rally ended after demonstrators returned to City Hall around 5 p.m.

The “All out for Palestine” protest came as the Israel-Hamas war entered its second week. According to the Associated Press, “The war that began Oct. 7 has become the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides, with more than 4,000 dead.”

A protester holds a colored smoke device while another holds a sign reading “Save Gaza.” Camille Kao / Thresher

Rice Students for Justice in Palestine announced the protest on their Instagram account Oct. 8. The other groups affiliated with the protest, according to the logos on the flyer, were the Palestinian American Cultural Center of Houston, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, the Palestinian American Council and the University of Houston chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

“We call on our community to join us in honoring our martyrs and the struggle of our people against colonialism,” Rice Students for Justice in Palestine wrote in the Instagram caption. “It is our duty to echo the calls for liberation of our homeland and our people, from the river to the sea!!!”

Fouad Salah, an organizer and media representative with the Palestinian Youth Movement, spoke with the Thresher at the protest.

“We’re gathered here today as Houstonians to say that we stand with the people of Gaza as they face unrelenting violence by Israel,” Salah said. “We call on the United States to end their $3.8 billion-a-year check to fund the Israeli military’s violent bombing campaigns against Gaza.”

Anna Rajagopal ’23, a representative with Rice Students for Justice in Palestine, gave a speech at the protest. They criticized the Oct. 11 “message of support to the Rice community” from President Reggie DesRoches and other administration officials.

“[Rice] released a statement this week about the events in Gaza, yet they made no mention of the Palestinians being murdered by Israel, they made no mention of the ongoing Nakba [catastrophe] that has taken place over the last 100 years on Palestinian land,” Rajagopal said in her speech.

The Oct. 11 message from Rice referenced the “horrific and inhumane terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel” and the “ongoing turmoil in Israel and the Palestinian territories.” It also mentioned that “Rice’s diverse community includes Israelis and Palestinians as valued members” and condemned the violence.

“As we noted in our communications, Rice denounces the violence in both Gaza and Israel,” DesRoches wrote in a later statement to the Thresher. “Many among us have family, friends and colleagues enduring the deeply distressing conflict, turmoil and uncertainty in the region. The ongoing situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories resonates in many ways within our campus and community, and we anticipate that this pain will persist in the coming months.”

Multiple current Rice students attended the protest, but none were willing to be interviewed on the record by the Thresher.

A sign reading “from Rojava to Gaza smash colonialism” sits on the ground outside Rice’s Multicultural Center Oct. 11. Amelia Davis / Thresher

Rice Students for Justice in Palestine hosted a sign-making event Oct. 11 at Rice’s Multicultural Center. Students and community members painted posters and banners inside the MCC and in its courtyard.

“We have people who just didn't understand why we would open up the center for this,” Catherine Clack, the associate vice provost for diversity, equity and inclusion, said. “This is an exercise of free speech, and on this campus, we allow students to engage in civil discourse, civil disobedience. So how is this something that we should oppose when it's an exercise of free speech?”

Signs created at the Oct. 11 event included quotes such as “Palestine will be free,” “long live Palestine” and “from Rojava to Gaza smash colonialism.”

At the protest Saturday, demonstrators held signs with similar messages, like “stop Palestinian genocide” and “freedom + equality = peace.” 

A common sign, tagged with “Party for Socialism and Liberation,” read, “End all U.S. aid to Israel.” The U.S. signed a 10-year, $38 billion military aid deal in 2016 with Israel, which Reuters described as “Washington’s chief Middle East ally.”

“We also have demands for the United States government to end the continuous funding towards the Zionist regime,” Noor Salah, who described herself as a “Palestinian in the diaspora,” said. “[The U.S.] currently sends funding on a yearly basis, about $3.8 billion a year, [and] we demand that the government end that funding today.”

A child holds a Palestinian flag in front of Houston City Hall during the protest. Cali Liu / Thresher

John Floyd, a national board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he attended the protest to speak out about what he called a “cycle of violence” in Palestine.

“[With] the unequivocal support for Israel and these militant policies, we feel like we need to get out and make our voices heard so that there's some accountability, not only to our local officials but also our national elected officials,” Floyd said.

Spring Chenjp contributed reporting.

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