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Hundreds of Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian cause marched in New York City on Sunday, 15 May, in commemoration of the 68th anniversary of the Nakba, the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands by Zionist militias in 1947-48 and the occupation of Palestine, demanding Palestinian refugees’ right to return and the liberation of Palestine. The rally and march was organized by the NY4Palestine coalition, of which Samidoun is a member organization.

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Beginning at City Hall Park, participants marched over the Brooklyn Bridge toward a closing rally at Cadman Plaza. Two members of the recent Anti-Prison, Labor and Academic Delegation to Palestine, professor Johanna Fernandez and former US prisoner Laura Whitehorn, spoke about their experiences in Palestine and the struggle against mass imprisonment and racist repression in the United States and in Palestine. Ayman Nijim and Joe Catron spoke together for Samidoun, on the situation of Palestinian prisoners and the ongoing attacks, siege, and collective imprisonment of Palestinians in Gaza as a manifestation of the ongoing Nakba. Ayman shared his story of how Israel is preventing him from returning to see his family in Gaza, making him a refugee twice over.

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Maggie Tobin of NYC Free Peltier spoke about the case of imprisoned indigenous struggler Leonard Peltier, alongside the struggles of imprisoned indigenous Palestinians. Speakers included representatives of New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, Al-Awda NY, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Muslims for Palestine, International Action Center, Existence is Resistance, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Muslim American Society, BAYAN USA and other groups struggling for justice in Palestine and internationally.

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Mike from Shut it Down NYC, part of the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke about the struggle against racism, brutality and police repression from NYC to Palestine. Shut it Down organizes #PeoplesMonday, a weekly protest highlighting a victim of police brutality and institutional racism; on Monday, 16 May, marking the Nakba, the #PeoplesMonday protest will highlight the case of Nadim Nuwara, killed by an Israeli Border Police officer as he walked down the street.

Marchers chanted for justice and liberation for Palestine, including chants like “We don’t want two states – we want 48!” “Settler, settler go back home, Palestine is ours alone!” and “New York City, you will learn, the refugees will return!” as they proceeded over the Brooklyn Bridge.

The New York City protest joins events around the world commemorating the Nakba and demanding Palestinian refugees’ right to return, including actions and events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, Boston, Tampa, Berlin, Brussels, London, Paris, Marseille, Malmo, Milan, Turin, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Oslo, Tunis, Johannesburg and countless other cities.

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Nerdeen Kiswani of New York City Students for Justice in Palestine wrote that “the rally was full of Palestinian youth, which gave me an intense feeling of hope and optimism, that the next generation does not forget their history, their roots, and the right of return. They cheered loudly whenever someone proclaimed that refugees languishing in camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, don’t want to just go to the West Bank and Gaza, they’re entitled to go back to the homes they were expelled from. Back to Yaffa, back to Haifa, back to Akka. Although so many here today were people born and raised in Brooklyn, because their grandparents were displaced from Palestine, they know where their roots lie and that the right of return is not just symbolic but a key aspect of the Palestinian struggle.”

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Samidoun will gather this Friday, 20 May at 4 PM outside the offices of G4S, the private security corporation that provides security services, equipment and control rooms to Israeli prisons, checkpoints and even the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing where the siege of Gaza is imposed, at 19 W. 44th Street in Manhattan for the weekly protest against G4S and for freedom for Palestinian prisoners.

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Photos by Joe Catron, Abbas Hamideh, Michael Letwin, Johanna Fernandez, NYC SJP