I received an advance notice of a protest over Israel's war on Gaza at Central and Secor, and with the freezing rain that iced over area streets, I thought there would be a lower turnout. However, I counted over 150 people at the protest, far exceeding my expectations.
The crowd was quite diverse, with students and business persons, parents and children, and many folks who did not seem to be so readily identifiable - just average people outraged over the latest Israeli violence against the Palestinians.
I had a lengthy conversation with Ziad Hummos, a Palestinian who came to the United States after the First Intifada. He and I expressed our mutual frustration at the unwillingness of American political leaders to speak out against the wholesale slaughter of innocent Palestinian civilians.
"Our current President is unwilling to do anything in his last weeks, and [President-elect] Barack Obama has been completely quiet," he said. "Sure, Obama came out and condemned the violence in Mumbai, but why has he been so quiet about this war?"
Yet even the driving rain - which caused me to clean my eyeglasses every few minutes - could not stop this large crowd from voicing its anger and frustration.
"From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free!" chanted the crowd, and many dozens of cars honked in support. The only counter protester I heard was a pedestrian on the Westgate side, who hollered that the protesters "should go back home" if they "don't like America."
Uh, dude? America IS home to everyone who attended the rally today. Perhaps our unhappy friend might move to a state where fascist repression of protest is the norm. Like, say, Israel, where police and government forces regularly harass peaceful protesters like these.