On Saturday, Nov. 4, members from in and around the University of Maine community gathered on the steps of Fogler Library to stand in solidarity with Palestinians as the Israel-Hamas War rages on. The open mic-style event welcomed all voices and concluded with a march toward the university’s New Balance Field House, with chants of “Free, free Palestine!” ringing out across the campus.
The rally kicked off with one crowd member asking those present to be mindful of the difference between what individual humans are doing in Israel and Palestine and what their respective governments are doing.
Many attendees expressed dissatisfaction with the responses of Maine’s elected officials in Congress regarding the ongoing conflict. One speaker stated, “I’m so disappointed with our elected officials…There is a huge disconnect between what our constituents are calling for and what our officials are doing.”
One of the event’s organizers, Brendan Davison, added to this perspective, saying, “We as Americans are complicit in what is going on in Israel and Palestine. I do not want to see my tax dollars going to support war crimes and ethnic cleansing when we have so much going on here. There is so much good that can be done with those tax dollars. We should not use them to commit these horrible atrocities…We should not be sending a single dollar to it.”
Politicians from Maine were not the only ones facing heavy criticism, with President Biden referred to throughout the rally as “Genocide Joe.”
“There are 40 or 50 of us here that all can say the word ‘ceasefire.’ We have yet to hear that come out of his [Biden’s] mouth,” said Jason Tkacs, the Save Gaza Rally’s other lead organizer.
In between speakers, the crowd erupted into chants of “Ceasefire now!” and “No more money for Israel’s crimes!”
Attendee Khameer Kidia, a global health physician, also shared the poem “We Lived Happily During the War” by Ilya Kaminsky, which refers to the comfort Americans typically experience when others are suffering and being destroyed by war worldwide.
Jacob Hinz, a Jewish student at UMaine, discussed the importance of learning history and finding independent sources to understand the context and consequences of ongoing conflict.
“Basically, this genocide is being fueled by a system of capitalism that prioritizes profits over people…People should know about the oil companies getting licensed to drill in the Gaza Strip and that, basically, this whole thing is being fueled so that the big corporations who fund our politicians can get a payday,” said Hinz.
Hinz added, “The UN and Amnesty International all agree that this is a genocide, and the only countries defending Israel are Western countries with a history of colonialism and white supremacy. The label of terrorist is just used to label resistance forces against the Western empire.”
When asked what can be done to demonstrate unwavering solidarity, Davison responded, “We all have a role to play, no matter how small it is…In the heart of an empire, we can do a lot to fight against…the ongoing genocide in Palestine by reaching out to our abysmal elected officials and boycotting companies who support the occupation and are engaged in business in Israel. Hitting them in their pocketbooks is one of the ways that hurts them the most.”
Another participant commented, “It is all people and all nations who bear the responsibility of solidarity…This is not about antisemitism, this is about everybody having the right to a decent life and self-determination.”
Resources provided at the rally included links to uscpr.org/GazaCall and uscpr.org/StopMassacres for those who would like to call on Congress to prioritize de-escalation and humanitarian aid for Gaza.