Students gathered Saturday afternoon on a corner at the intersection of Blue Valley Parkway and West 119th Street in Overland Park, waving Palestinian flags and chanting, “ceasefire now” at a peaceful rally that lasted about two hours.
The student-led protest was comprised mainly of college students but included members of the community who turned out to show their support for an end to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas that has lasted for more than two months.
The protest was held a day after the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire for the war. The rally was organized by the University of Missouri-Kansas City Students for Justice in Palestine, Kansas University Muslim Student Association, and Jewish Voice for Peace.
The U.S. decision and the continued toll of devastation and casualties in Gaza hit home for those who attended Saturday’s rally to show support in Kansas for Palestinians, and to echo a call for an end to the war.
As students held bullhorns chanting and demanding action from political leaders, they also held institutions to account.
Mahmoud Jutmah, vice president of Students for Justice in Palestine, spoke about students needing their voices protected on campus.
“The most dangerous part at university and on every level is the silence from people that have authority,” Jutmah said.
Raya Carter, 26, stood on the sidewalk with her peers holding a sign chanting,”free Palestine within our lifetime.” At the rally, Carter said she finds hope in her identity as a Black American.
“I have hope because even in our history when my ancestors didn’t have hope during slavery...we were still freed,” Carter said. “Though we still struggle with all of the oppression that we’re faced our people are still working towards freedom.
As cars drove by honking in solidarity, students and members of the community held signs saying, “We will free Palestine within our lifetime” and “Israel bombs US Pays.”
Members of Jewish Voice for Peace Kansas City, stood in in the middle of the rally, showing their support for the Palestinian community.
Michael Wolfe, a member of the organization, said he’s mourning those killed on Oct. 7, when Hamas, an Islamic militant group, initiated a surprise attack on Israel that reached a death toll of around 1,200 people. In retaliation to the attack, Israel declared war and has targeted Gaza with airstrikes. According to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has exceeded 17,700.
During the protest, Wolfe said he doesn’t believe mourning should be a tool to spew hate.
“As a Jewish person with Israeli family members, I am grieving,” Wolfe said. “It’s a cause that’s very personal to me, but I am also seeing that my grief is being used as a weapon of war to support a genocide supposedly in the name of my people.”
The diverse crowd of spirited young people shouted in the streets continuously, “ceasefire now, ceasefire now,” demanding action from elected officials.