Peoria residents join protesters across the country to support Palestinians
Peoria residents gathered Wednesday evening at the corner of University and Main to show support for Palestinians.
They were there to draw attention to Gaza, where thousands of civilians have been killed since Hamas launched an attack on Israel Oct. 7.
The rally was one of many across the country. In Washington, D.C., more than 300 members of the group Jewish Voice for Peace rallied in the Capitol Hill rotunda calling for a ceasefire. Protesters in major cities across the country gathered to call for an end to a blockade that is preventing food, fuel and medicine from getting to Gaza.
Adam Kattom, one of the protesters in Peoria, said he has a friend in Gaza. He said she’s had to move homes multiple times, noting since the water has been cut off, they don’t have anywhere to use the bathroom.
“We have to think about the innocent people who have nothing to do with war,” said Kattom. “I understand. Everyone has their own side, everyone wants to defend their country, but we have to think about the innocent, because what's going on is just, I can't even imagine how they must be feeling.”
President Joe Biden announced humanitarian aid will be delivered to Gaza through the Egyptian border during his visit to Israel on Wednesday. The Israeli government and the United States have both stated that if humanitarian aid is given to Hamas, they will stop allowing aid into Gaza.
Kattom said he doesn’t believe the attacks on Israel by Hamas were right, adding the protesters don’t want any more civilians to die on either side of the conflict.
“They just want Palestinians to be free, but the way [Hamas] should act upon it should be better, they should have a better approach,” he said.
Imam Mazhar Mahmood, director of Religious Affairs at the Islamic Foundation of Peoria, said the majority of victims in Gaza are civilians; around 47% of Gaza’s population is under the age of 18.
“In other words, putting an end to the next generation,” he said.
He said the conflict isn’t a war, it’s an occupation, adding the goal of the protest was to educate others on what’s happening in Gaza and in the other Palestinian territories.
“Throughout history, protests have not really changed the minds of our leaders much, and I wish it wasn't like that,” he said.
Kattom said protesters also want the U.S. to stop giving aid to Israel.
“All we can do is show our awareness to try showing the government, you know, that we don't want to give our tax money to Israel,” he said. “We want our taxes to go to America. We don't want our checks just to go to the Israeli government and help them out because that's going against our people.”