Reports on the two Free Gaza protests: Tuesday and Friday
"Occupation is a crime, killing children is a crime" - was the chant that filled the downtown streets of Portland, Oregon - USA, Tuesday afternoon, as hundreds of local residents gathered with handmade signs and megaphones to voice their outrage at the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza that have continued for the last four days.
"From Ramallah to Gaza, The people will maintain their dignity", chanted Arab-American protesters in Arabic during Tuesday's protest and march in Portland.
The protestors chanted slogans calling for ending the Israeli occupation to Palestine, and ending the US government support and military aid to the Israeli occupation.
As the bombs continue to fall, Israeli authorities say that the first stage of their long-planned assault is ending, and the second stage is about to begin - a ground invasion of the besieged and imprisoned Gaza Strip.
Protesters pledged that if that happens, they would return to downtown Portland on Friday to throw their shoes at Senator Ron Wyden.
Mazin Malik, a Palestinian-American who has lived in the Portland area for decades, attended the protest Tuesday. He told IMEMC reporters, "People in Portland should pressure their representatives to use the financial leverage of the US government to reach parameters to forge a true peace."
He added, "With the new administration in Washington, we have a chance to start thinking in that direction. More than ever, we have an opportunity to change things; it's the right moment, so we should seize that chance. I don't think Barack Obama will change US policy toward Israel necessarily, but there are levels - he will be less biased than George Bush."
An estimated 500 people attended the Portland protest, which was just one of dozens held worldwide on Tuesday, in solidarity with the besieged population of Gaza.
Portland holds second protest demanding justice in Gaza
Around 200 people braved the cold and sleet on Friday afternoon in Portland to voice their opposition to the Israeli attacks in Gaza, and to call on Senator Ron Wyden to change his position on the issue from unquestioning support for Israel to a position that supports equal rights for the Palestinian people.
Many held hand-stenciled signs reading "Gaza Genocide: Made in USA", and "Free Palestine". The group made their way around the downtown Portland park in front of the Federal Building, chanting "Free Free Palestine" and "Occupation is a crime". Motorists passing in front of the protest honking and cheering, and pedestrians on the street also voiced their support.
Representatives from No More Victims Portland, the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition and the Pacific Green Party, among others, spoke to the crowd to rally support for the people of Gaza. Several of the speakers said, "We want the people of Gaza to know that we are with you, we stand in solidarity with you, against the ongoing Israeli crimes".
The Pacific Green Party representative talked about Cynthia McKinney, the party's Presidential candidate in last November's election, who was on a humanitarian aid boat to Gaza that tried to break the siege two days ago, but was rammed by an Israeli naval vessel and nearly sunk. He read a statement from McKinney in which she called on all current Congressional representatives to cease all funding to the Israeli state.
IMEMC's Saed Bannoura, who was shot and paralyzed by the Israeli army in 1991, also spoke at the rally, condemned the ongoing Israeli offensive against the residents in the Gaza Strip, and called for rejecting the US policies and its blindfolded military and financial support to Israel.
Those who participated in Friday's rally called for continued, ongoing and relentless pressure on Senator Ron Wyden, to push him to change his stance on Israel-Palestine.
They also called for a boycott campaign of local businesses which sell products imported from Israel, until they discontinue these products, or until Israel complies with human rights law - whichever comes first.
The protest in Portland was just one of dozens held worldwide, in ongoing pressure campaigns against local politicians and business leaders, to end their unconditional ties with Israel.
audio report: http://kboo.fm/node/11237
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