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Ohio University professor Tom Hayes speaking at the "Free Palestine" protest outside the Athens County Courthouse in Athens, Ohio, Oct. 26, 2023.

Protestors support Palestine outside courthouse

Ohio University students and Athens community members gathered outside the Athens County Courthouse Thursday evening to stand in solidarity with Palestine as a smaller group of people gathered in support of Israel across the street.

The voices of people were heard down Court Street.

“When Palestine is under attack, what do we do?” A voice supporting Palestine rang out.

“Stand up, fight back,” the crowd responded. 

Other chants about Palestine were shouted throughout the evening by about 100 protesters. 

Handouts and pamphlets were given to protestors and bystanders with information on both the conflict and the local effort to support Palestine.

One pamphlet stated, “Protest to pressure the international community to stand with Palestinians against Israel’s acts of genocide and oppression!”

Only about five people came in support of Israel, and they observed from across the street. 

Silas Buckenberger, a sophomore studying information and telecommunication studies, came to the protest in opposition and expected a larger turnout.

Buckenberger opposed protesters’ calls for the destruction of Israel. 

“What do they want to happen to the Jews when they’re saying things like, ‘Israel has got to go?’" Buckenberger said. "That’s really disturbing because those are genocidal statements.”

Athens community participant Dylan Vanover said he has stood in unity with Palestine for seven years. He came to the protest to support his Palestinian friends. 

“Over the better half of the last century, Palestine has been occupied by Israel because of its Zionist project,” Vanover said. “Zionist settler colonial ideology; basically, what we've been witnessing for the past 75 years is active ethnic cleansing that has been intensified over the past few weeks.” 

According to the Associated Press, over 7,000 Palestinians have died since the conflict between Israel and Hamas elevated Oct. 7. 

“We're here to stand in solidarity for people that are displaced and genocided by the ethnic cleansing that has been taking place over the better half of the past century,” Vanover said. 

Buckenberger, alternatively, said he supports Israel and nobody wants civilians to die; however, he said he doesn’t agree with what Hamas has done and compared them to modern-day Nazis. 

More than 1,400 people in Israel have died during the conflict, according to the Associated Press.

“I understand that not everyone here supports Hamas, a lot of them just support Palestine,” Buckenberger said. “Hamas has got to go, and Israel needs their freedom and their independence.” 

Ellie Hamrick, another organizer of the pro-Palestinian protest, discussed plans to collect donations for organizations such as the Middle East Children’s Alliance to provide immediate aid and long-term support for Palestine.

“Immediate things like medical care and food and water are needed … they also do things like psychological care,” Hamrick said. “They build playgrounds and provide better quality of life.” 

Hamrick said the protest was quickly organized by roughly 30 to 40 people online. She said she, along with others who organized the protest, want to host an educational event to inform the community about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Longtime Athens resident and social justice advocate Peggy Gish spent her first day out of recovery after breast cancer surgery participating in the protest. She was asked to give a speech but declined.

She said she understands why some people believe violence is the only way. However, that is not her view. Gish instead wants to solve the problem that started the conflict. 

“For safety for Israelis and Palestinians, address root causes of this uprising,” read the sign Gish held.

The back of her sign read: “Ceasefire / Humanitarian Aid / Justice for Palestinians / The Way to Peace.”

“There are (some Palestinians) who are desperate,” Gish said. “They don’t know of any other way to do it than violence. Sometimes they’re doing it because (violence) is the only way to make the world see what’s going on.”

The crowd of protestors outside the courthouse showed its support for a few more hours, but eventually, it started to disperse around 8 p.m. 

Watch the protestors support Palestine outside courthouse video below.




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