Palestinian supporters rally in Playhouse Square outside Cleveland event featuring elected officials
Protesters gathered outside KeyBank State Theatre Monday night to send a message to the elected officials inside: divest from Israel and show support for the nearly 13,000 Palestinians killed in the ongoing Israel-Hamas War.
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, Gov. Mike DeWine and U.S. House representatives Shontel Brown and Max Miller were slated to speak as part of Greater Cleveland Partnership's All In Leadership Forum. DeWine did not end up attending.
The crowd of around 100 took issue with what they viewed as politicians "endorsing" a genocide by not vocalizing support for the Palestinian people and by accepting "blood money" from Israel.
Whereas some slammed Bibb's social media post saying, "Cleveland stands in solidarity with Israel" after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, others condemned more pointed language, like Miller's comments on Fox News saying that Gaza would be "eviscerated" and that "we're going to turn that into a parking lot."
“It’s despicable and it’s unacceptable and that’s why we’re out here as a community in Cleveland, to show them that our community in Cleveland, not just Palestinians, our entire community stands with the people of Palestine right now," said Cleveland activist Chance Emad of the Palestinian Youth Movement.
Emad's family is from Gaza. "They don’t support genocide.”
The event kicked off at the US Bank Plaza on the corner of 14th Street and Euclid Avenue, which police blocked off with fences and snow plows. Organizers marched down Euclid carrying signs and bloodied body bags bearing the names of children they said were killed in Gaza this month.
“We would hope our elected officials finally take the opportunity to pay attention to us, that they stop supporting genocide right now and that they change their behavior," Emad said.
The protesters chanted the names of each elected official saying, "You can't hide, we charge you with genocide."
Once in front of the State Theatre, an organizer read the names of Palestinian children they said have died. The crowd said the elected officials were "charged with [their] murders."
Hayat Najjar, a 42-year-old Westlake resident, said she brought her daughter to show support and demand a ceasefire.
"There’s a large Palestinian community here. We are family both here and there," Najjar said. "If they want our votes and they want us to support them, they have to support us.”
After the protest, some of the group marched to Cleveland City Hall, where they once again filled Cleveland City Council chambers and used public comment to speak in support of the Palestinians. The crowd disrupted the meeting with chants of "Free Palestine" for over seven minutes before leaving council chambers.
Council President Blaine Griffin, who said council is reviewing a potential public comment rules change in the wake of what he called a breach of decorum in chambers, instructed the clerk of council to continue and ignore the crowd.
Organizers were not removed by police, as one had been a few weeks prior, and ultimately left.