KSU alum leads Palestine protest in Cleveland


Sophia Lucente

A passerby stands on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument in Cleveland public square overlooking the protest for Palestinian justice on Saturday, Jan. 29. He stood in the sunlight at the top of the stairs for about five minutes listening to one of the speakers before turning back around and going on his way.

Sophie Young Reporter Sophia Lucente Photographer

Citizens carried hand-painted signs, standing near a table covered with flyers in the green and red of the Palestinian Youth Movement where a volunteer stood offering hand warmers to students and citizens gathered to advocate for a free Palestine. 

Kent State alum Emad Zourob led the protest for a free Palestine in Cleveland’s Public Square Saturday, Jan. 29, stepping up with a megaphone to welcome everyone who attended despite the cold. Students from Case Western Reserve University, John Carroll University and Cleveland State University joined the protest as well.

“We’re here primarily to support our Palestinian brothers and sisters facing apartheid occupation and oppression at the hands of the Israeli government,” said Faris, a student from Case Western. 

Zourob said he wanted to use his voice to bring awareness to the United States’ process of  “greenwashing” the displacement and eviction of Palestinians by calling it a “forestation plan.” Greenwashing is a term that describes using concern for the environment to appeal to an audience despite differing actions.

War broke out in Gaza in May of last year after Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah were torn down. Forestation efforts, forced displacement and occupation continue to happen in Sheikh Jarrah, al-Naqab, Silwan and al-Khalil.   

“It’s really important that we use our voice here to protest to let it be known that these actions must have consequences and that we must divest from the action,” Zourob said. 

As a Kent State alumnus and Palestinian, Zourob said it was important to him to advocate for others as a part of the Palestinian Youth Movement.

“Kent is a place that really birthed a movement of activism, as well as advocacy, throughout the United States,” Zourob said. “So it’s really important for students at Kent State to be a part of the action.”

The next speaker, Case Western junior Abud Salem, told the crowd he would begin his speech in an unconventional way. He started a “numbers game,” asking the crowd to remember as much as they could as he shouted off a string of numbers.

“7 months old. 78 Palestinian children killed. 357 Palestinians massacred last year alone. 295 homes demolished. 897 people homeless. 1,000 more facing forced expulsion. Over 91,000 displaced,” Salem said.

The statistics fell on a crowd gathered in Cleveland’s Public Square, where a monument to the American Civil War shaded intent listeners from cold winter sunshine. Cleveland residents and college students stood with Palestine’s flag draped around their shoulders, carrying homemade signs as Salem continued to speak of his hopes for a free Palestine, which he hopes to see within his lifetime.

“From the river to the sea,” Zourob called from his megaphone as lifted voices answered, “Palestine will be free!”

As the chants died down, Zourob introduced the next speaker, Kameron Damaska from the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Damaska spoke of solidarity with the Palestinian people and lead poisoning in Cleveland communities, which affects Black and Brown citizens more than others. He explained that “25 percent of Cleveland kindergarteners” tested for high levels of lead, which causes neurological damage. 

“We need to build a real political movement to change the reality here because the current state of things from Cleveland to Palestine is unacceptable,” Damaska said.

Next, Sam Bachelor returned to the issue on the forefront – Palestine. Bachelor is an American that grew up in East Jerusalem and relayed information from friends still living there.

“I owe everything that I am to the Palestinian people,” Bachelor said, before informing the crowd of his friends who have been displaced. Bachelor’s friends told him the process of this displacement.

Evictions are the result of conflicting Jewish and Arab claims to the land within neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah. Israeli police enforce these orders about land disputes surrounding Jerusalem, a holy city for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“You can destroy your own home with your own hands, or you can pay the Zionist state of Israel over $100,000 to destroy your home for you,” Bachelor said. “So you pay to become homeless, either through your labor or with $100,000.”

Gia from John Carroll University took the megaphone next, saying that Israel failed the Palestinians. 

“What you’re witnessing today are Palestinians all over Palestine, Palestinians all over the world, putting their life on the line to support each other; Israel failed,” she said. “They can demolish our homes, deny us our human rights, ethnically cleanse our cities, but they can never halt our resistance.”

Gia attended the protest with Sydney Schuler, another student from John Carroll she met while taking an Israeli and Palestinian literature class. Schuler didn’t know much about the Palestinian conflict before taking the class and found it “humbling and enlightening” to learn more. 

Zourob closed out the protest, encouraging Palestinians and supporters to stay active, not just reactionary. 

“We need to call out that Zionism in Cleveland,” Zourobe said. “We are all Palestinians no matter where we are.”

 Sophie Young is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].