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Protestors, for Ceasefire on Palestine, on the corner of Court Street by the Athens Municipal Court House. Jan. 26, 2024.

Protestors gather around courthouse, show support for Palestine

Protestors gathered outside the Athens County Courthouse, located at 8 E. Washington St., Friday to show support for Palestinians amid Israel’s war on Gaza.

The protest follows a previous demonstration held in October by Athens community members at the same location. Around 100 people led chants, gave speeches and peacefully protested. 

Nancy Epling, one of the event’s organizers, said she was pleased with the turnout but thinks Athens could be louder with its support for Palestine.

“I feel like folks in Athens have been rather quiet about this genocide, which is kind of strange; it’s talked as if it’s a progressive city,” Epling said. “Hundreds of Palestinians are getting slaughtered every day … There’s been no ceasefire, nothing, it’s only gotten worse.”

Angie Mazakis, a protestor and speaker at the event, said she is concerned about how the media has portrayed the conflict. 

“(The media) seems unequivocally unjust, in some ways, in the way that mainstream media is communicating about it,” Mazakis said.

Mazakis hopes the protest makes other people aware of what is going on in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what their tax dollars are funding.

“Their tax dollars are paying for billions of dollars of ammunition to kill,” Mazakis said. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, several billions of dollars go toward foreign aid to Israel. 

Drake Chamberlain, a protestor handed out fliers titled “The Missing Pieces of the Palestinian Narrative.” 

“We’re supposed to be the good guys,” Chamberlain said. “We stopped things like this, but we’re doing it; we’re paying for it with our tax dollars.” 

Epling said the protest, though in solidarity with Palestine, is in support of Jewish people and other marginalized groups.

“We are here for liberation of all people, and that includes the Jewish people; that includes the Palestinian people; that includes our Black community; our trans and non-binary brothers and sisters,” Epling said. “We want liberation for all people.”

Tensions at the protest peaked with an outburst opposing the crowd came from an unidentified individual.

“If y’all were in Palestine, they’d kill every f---ing one of you right now," the individual said. "What the f--k are you protesting?” 

Afterward, the individual jumped into a car parked across the street and drove away at a high speed, continuing to yell from the vehicle. 

Following the outburst, Jeff Lyons, a Jewish man present in support of Palestine, held a sign reading, “This Jew says ceasefire now.”

“That’s what happens when you … conflate the defense of Israel to opposing anti-semitism, you are actually disarming … people’s ability to oppose real anti-semitism,” Lyons said

Beyond his beliefs in the pro-Palestine movement, Lyons said his motivations for public demonstrations come from thinking, “When I can, I need to do something about it.”

“Our local government is controlled by Democrats, and of course, the local politicians are not the ones perpetrating the genocide, but their party is,” Ellie Hamrick, who was handing out flyers at the demonstration, said. “I feel that it’s really incumbent on local Democratic politicians and elected officials to speak out against the genocide.”

She said she hopes to see future protest efforts become more organized. 

“I feel like we need to take baby steps toward more intense tactics,” Hamrick said. “Hopefully, it will lead to full-scale strikes.”

Although the turnout was comparable to the October demonstration, Epling said she thought people were starting to get quiet.

“I think I’ve been seeing a lot of burnout … but we have to remember the Palestinian people have been doing this for (about) 78 years, and a lot of people have only been on this for 100-some days,” Epling said.

However, despite concerns about burnout, Hamrick said more events are planned for the future.  

Future events include an educational movie screening about the Zionist movement in the U.S. titled “The Occupation of the American Mind.” The screening will take place Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m. in the Athens Public Library, 30 Home St.

Hamrick also said there will be attempts to organize a march to the local offices of the Democratic Party. If people want to get involved with the group’s future events, Hamrick suggested visiting the Facebook page for this event and getting in contact with organizers. 



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