Marchers gather in S.F. to protest violence in Gaza - SFGate - FACTOIDS
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Marchers gather in S.F. to protest violence in Gaza - SFGate

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Chanting "Free Palestine" and accusing Israel of genocide, a large, diverse crowd of Arab Americans and antiwar demonstrators marched in San Francisco late Sunday afternoon to protest the ongoing military action in Gaza and the escalating ground offensive by Israeli troops.

At one point, the protesters sat down in the middle of Market Street at Fourth Street and read the names of victims of the nearly 2-week-old conflict, including their ages and the circumstances of their deaths.

Despite the size of the demonstration, the atmosphere was relatively orderly. The crowd, marching with a police escort, was vocal and impassioned but remained peaceful. The participants included families with young children.

Amal Saleh, 28, of Alameda came to the rally with her 8-year-old son, her sister and four nephews, ages 5 to 15.

Saleh said she is shocked by the recent events and what she called the dehumanization of Palestinians in the conflict. "At least this is something I can do, a way I can show my support for the Palestinians," she said.

Faisal Ojjeh, 12, who recently moved to Palo Alto from Jordan, said he felt he had to speak out "especially for the children (of Gaza), who have nothing to do with it."

The protest, organized by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center and Arab Youth Organization, started with a 3 p.m. rally at the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero before the demonstrators began marching up Market.

The Bay Area groups involved in Sunday's protest were calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel.

More than 400 people have been killed in the conflict and about 35,000 have been displaced.

A variety of groups, including South Asians Against the War, a coalition of South Asian community groups, were represented at Sunday's rally.

"Israel's attack against Gaza has gotten people out in a way they haven't before," said Anirvan Chatterjee, 37, of Berkeley.

As the pro-Palestinian rally was going on, a gathering in support of Israel was being held at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, complete with American flags, Israeli songs and chants in support of the Jewish state.

But Judith Berlowitz - a member of Bay Area Women in Black, a network of predominantly Jewish and feminist activists - was at the pro-Palestinian rally objecting to the violence in Israel.

"We're saying not in our name," said Berlowitz, 75, of Oakland. "The sides are not equal. No occupation, no Hamas."

Sukayna Basma, 18, a San Jose City College student, said it's especially important for young people to speak up. "This is not about religion or about what I believe in. It's all about human rights," she said.

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