US pro-Palestine activists mourn Shireen Abu Akleh on Nakba Day
On a sunny day in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC more than a thousand people gathered to honour the Palestinian Nakba and to demand justice for the slain journalist Shireen Abu Akhleh.
Activists took turns giving speeches next to a makeshift memorial for Abu Akleh, where demonstrators placed flowers beneath her picture.
This was one of many similar demonstrations taking place this weekend across the world to mark the anniversary of the creation of Israel, when more than 700,000 Palestinians (more than half of the pre-war population) were forced from their homes.
This year, the date, 15 May, fell just days after the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist for Al Jazeera whom witnesses say was shot and killed by Israeli gunfire during a military raid in Jenin.
Though Nakba demonstrations are held annually, there was a focus this time on the untimely death of Abu Akleh.
“There has been global outrage over the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh,” Souzan Naser, a Chicago-based member of the US Palestinian Community Network, one of the main groups organising the Nakba demonstrations, told The New Arab.
“In addition to us grieving Shireen Abu Akleh, there’s the tragic memory of the Nakba. We’re out here today making it loud and clear we know Israel kills, occupies and represses with impunity,” she said.
Speaking amid drumbeats and speeches, Nalan Hassouneh, a Palestinian from Nablus, who has lived in the US for three decades, told TNA, “I know Shireen. I met her twice in [Washington] DC. She’s a voice. She gave her life. She’s never been biased to any entity. All she wants is peace for the kids of Palestine.”
Nadeem Mahadik, a Cub Scout leader, brought his scouts to the demonstration to speak out for press freedom and to demand accountability for Abu Akleh’s killing.
“Shireen Abu Akleh was a US citizen. How can we let her killing go with impunity? We are going to protest. This is not only our right, but our duty as US citizens,” he told TNA.
Although the turnout for Sunday’s demonstration was well over a thousand, some hoped it would be more, given the recent news.
“I’m surprised. I thought there would easily be 10,000 people here,” Miko Peled, a Palestinian writer and activist from Jerusalem, now residing in the US, told TNA. “The death of Shireen and the assault on the funeral procession afterwards was so horrific. It just took over social media. There isn’t anyone who hasn’t heard about it. I thought this would bring an awareness.”
He added, “I think it’s important for people of conscience to stand up for Palestine, regardless of whether they’re Palestinians or not. This is an issue that’s going to define our generation.”
After about two hours, the crowd dispersed and some of the demonstrators marched to the Washington Monument.
At the end of the day, Naser said, “I think that it’s important to say that the resistance won’t end, and neither will our organising and advocacy.”