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Tampa protesters condemn Israeli attacks on al-Aqsa worshippers, march for Palestine

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Tampa, FL – Over 150 protesters gathered on the corner of 56th Street and Fowler Avenue on April 23 in Tampa, Florida, to show their support for the people of Palestine after Israeli police invaded the holy mosque of al-Aqsa and beat and brutalized hundreds of worshippers who were praying for Ramadan.

The protesters waved Palestinian flags high, gave passionate speeches, and marched for about a mile around one of Tampa’s busiest intersections. They came from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Resistance of Tampa Bay, (TRTB), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Florida, the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and more.

Leali Shalabi, president of University of South Florida SJP, expressed her outrage at the attacks. She pointed out the poignant fact that these attacks were too similar to the attacks last year in al-Aqsa. In that year, the U.S.-backed Zionists and police also invaded the mosques and attacked Palestinians who were praying.

“It’s a shame,” Shalabi said, “that when we went to write the press release for this event, we were able to copy last year’s press release almost exactly. Even the numbers of the injured were the same. The situation hasn’t changed and neither has our commitment to fight!”

Eric Silva-Gomez, an activist in Tampa Bay SDS said, “We need to keep showing up for Palestine because as the Israeli occupation brutalizes its people, there is a lack of coverage in the U.S. They only give widespread coverage when a group disturbs the Israeli occupiers’ so-called peace. Showing up to these protests is us saying no to these occupiers.”

These attacks come after a long line of atrocities committed by the U.S.-backed apartheid Israeli government and police to put down the Palestinian people. This is in addition to bombing homes, schools, hospitals and even the blacklisting of Palestinian human rights and charity organizations.

Mirna Abushanab, a lead organizer in SJP, emphasized that the way forward was and still is through hosting demonstrations and actions, uniting organizations, and marching in the streets, along with the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction campaign. “The only way we are going to beat the system is if we work together. We go to the streets and chant, ‘The people united will never be defeated,’ and this chant itself comes from years and years of organizations working together. Although we are all different, our goal is still the same: we want people to rise and defeat fascist systems.”

Speakers then drew connections between the apartheid Israeli government and its source of power: the U.S. government. In 2020 alone, the U.S. government gave $3.8 billion in aid to the Israeli government, and sends more funds, weapons and military equipment every year.

The city of Tampa itself runs the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator, an outlet for Israeli businesses such as medical companies to set up shop in the U.S. This is why student protesters in SJP call for the Tampa General Hospital, a member of that association, to end their partnership with the Israeli government.

Vaidehi Persad, an activist with Students for a Democratic Society at the University of South Florida, said this was why it is vitally important for students and youth in the United States to call for an end to this aid, funding, and social promotion: “We all have a responsibility to hold the U.S. government accountable, hold our universities and workplaces accountable, and most importantly hold ourselves accountable to unwavering solidarity and commitment to a free Palestine.”


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