A board painted with the words "free palestine" and a red triangle and white stripe similar to features of the palestinian flag. The sign is leaning against a tandem bike with a child seat in the back

East Bay Organizers Demand Cease-Fire in Gaza

A board painted with the words "free palestine" and a red triangle and white stripe similar to features of the palestinian flag. The sign is leaning against a tandem bike with a child seat in the back

Support for Palestine was clearly visible at Richmond Civic Center on Oct. 24, the night Richmond City Council passed a resolution supporting the Palestinian people in Gaza. (Taylor Barton)

By Taylor Barton

Editor’s note: This story was reported and written before Israel and Hamas, which are at war, agreed to a truce. The two sides will reportedly put a stop to the fighting for at least four days starting Thursday morning, in part to allow for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians jailed in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the fighting will resume after the truce agreement expires.

Together We Stand, the El Cerrito-based organization dedicated to ending police violence and racism, led a march Saturday in Berkeley to demand a cease-fire in Gaza.

“No more weapons. No more war. This is what we’re marching for,” chanted the protesters on the steps of the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Plaza, in videos shared on social media.

Over 1,200 Israelis were killed after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Meanwhile, U.N. officials report over 13,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed since Oct. 7, with over 1.6 million internally displaced – roughly 70% of the population. Saturday’s march is the latest in a growing number of Bay Area community actions demanding that President Biden stop providing U.S. security resources to Israel and call for an end to the siege in Gaza.

>>>Read: Youth Lead Pro-Palestine Vigil at Unity Park

“It’s vital across the world, not just here, that we continue to put pressure on the powers that be,” said Together We Stand founder Sevji Fernandez in a phone interview prior to the protest. “We do not stand behind their genocide.”

Fernandez said Berkeley was chosen as a central location where people from all over the East Bay could gather.

Saturday’s event, which was cosponsored by Jewish Voices for Peace, included a fundraiser for Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Despite rain, multiple groups were present, including educators, the Poor News Network and various community organizers.

“Aid to Israel means aid to genocide to Palestinians. And has meant that for decades,” said Wassim Hage, case manager and community outreach coordinator at the Arab Resource Organizing Center, in a phone interview Nov. 20.

While not present Saturday, AROC helped organize the demonstration of over 200 people who shut down the Bay Bridge on Nov. 16 to demand a cease-fire.

>>>Read: City of Richmond Officially Stands With People of Palestine

Personal safety was a big priority for TWS at Saturday’s action with the ever-present risk of counter-protests.

“I always start our marches with a speech saying we are here with a message,” said Fernandez when asked about any safety concerns at the actions. “There will be people who don’t take our message. We are not going to engage.”

With increased concerns around anti-Muslim and racist hate crimes, Fernandez emphasized that the option to car caravan was important for those who felt physically safer driving than marching. She says that supporting freedom for Palestinians is inseparable from other antiracist causes.

“It all ties together to this worldwide white supremacy,” she said in an interview. Fernandez said people could find her at the protest by the message on her umbrella: “No racist-ass police.”

“My father was a Black Panther, and one thing they did so well was really organize across the country on a cohesive level,” she said on the phone. “We need our organizations to really come together as one, and our voices will be so much more powerful.”

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