New York City protesters raised signs, spoke and chanted in support of iconic Palestinian community leader and former political prisoner Rasmea Odeh in Union Square on Monday, 14 August. The protest comes three days before Odeh will face a federal court in Detroit for sentencing on charges of unlawfully procuring naturalization; she will be deported from the United States.
People from a range of social justice organizations in New York participated in the rally in support of Odeh who is known not only for her experience as a torture survivor and a political prisoner held for 10 years in Israeli jails, but also for her role in organizing hundreds of Arab women in Chicago as leader of the Arab Women’s Committee and associate director of the Arab American Action Network.
Speakers from organizations including the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the International Action Center, the Pakistan USA Freedom Forum and a variety of others saluted her role as an inspiration and a mentor to generations of youth in Chicago and across the United States.
The protest was also met with racist chants and taunts from the violent, ultra-right Zionist Jewish Defense League, who came to Union Square to shout epithets against Palestine and Rasmea Odeh. They were met by a strong response from the crowd present defending Palestinian rights.
Following the rally in support of Rasmea, the political alignments of the JDL were further illustrated as they headed north to Trump Tower to counter-protest, taunt and attack an anti-racist demonstration in solidarity with Charlottesville. On the other hand, many participants in the Palestine demonstration also headed uptown to join the anti-racist, anti-fascist protest and denounce white supremacy.
Participants included activists with Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, NY4Palestine, BAYAN USA, NY4Palestine and a number of groups. Nick Maniace spoke on behalf of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
“We are here to salute Rasmea Odeh for her sacrifice and service in the cause of liberation for the Palestinian homeland. She is an icon for everyone who stands for social-justice and independence. Rasmea Odeh endured brutal torture by the zionist occupation forces for her courageous devotion to the fight for Palestinian rights and liberation,” said Maniace. “Despite the brutality she endured from the state of Israel, she continued to work actively for the rights of the Palestinian people from the United States. The fact that the zionist trash of the “Jewish defense league” (a racist terrorist organization deemed terrorist even by the occupation government they advocate for) took their time to come out and “counter-protest” us today is a positive indication of the ground being gained by the anti-Zionist movement. These rabid-zionists condemnation of Rasmea Odeh was also yet another indication of Rasmea Odeh’s heroism and justness.”
Sara Flounders spoke for the International Action Center, urging ongoing support for Rasmea Odeh and persecuted Palestinians under attack.
Laura Whitehorn, former US-held political prisoner, spoke on behalf of the Northeast Political Prisoner Coalition and the Release Aging Prisoners Project (RAPP). She brought greetings from all political prisoners in the United States, emphasizing that they are unanimous in their support for Rasmea and for Palestine.
Berna Ellorin spoke on behalf of BAYAN USA, while Lydia of Samidoun and Jackie Mariano of the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines emceed the rally. Joyce Chediac Wilcox delivered a speech for the Party for Socialism and Liberation, while Suzanne Ross represented the International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The program continued as Michael Letwin gave a talk on behalf of Labor for Palestine, emphasizing the growing support in the labor movement for the Palestinian cause and Palestinian prisoners. Yoko of NYCHRP, Thomas Cox of Brooklyn for Peace and Jorge of the Brooklyn Revolutionary Collective spoke at the protest.
“It makes us both sad and angry to think of our loss in deporting Rasmea Odeh: her skills as a community organizer, a leader for positive change in the community, a role model for girls and women, a person of great personal integrity and compassion,” said Cox.
Shahid Comrade of the Pakistan USA Freedom Forum, who also livestreamed the protest as it was taking place, spoke as well at the event.
The New York City protest followed a reception with over 1,200 attendees in Chicago on 12 August organized by the Rasmea Defense Committee. Dr. Angela Davis, former political prisoner, spoke at the event alongside Rasmea Odeh and multiple performances in the packed community salute. Protesters will gather in Detroit on 17 August to support Rasmea Odeh in court at her sentencing hearing.
Endorsers of the protest included:
Anakbayan New Jersey
Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
American Muslims for Palestine – NJ Chapter
Brooklyn For Peace
Brooklyn Revolutionary Collective
Coalition To End Broken Windows
Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
Freedom Socialist Party – U.S.
International Action Center
International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
International League of Peoples’ Struggle – ILPS US
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Labor for Palestine
Majlis Ashura -Islamic Leadership Council- of New York
Northeast Political Prisoner Coalition
NYC Jericho Movement
NYC Students for Justice in Palestine
NYC Shut It Down: The Grand Central Crew #blacklivesmatter
New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP)
Pakistan USA Freedom Forum
Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM)- حركة الشباب الفلسطيني
Party for Socialism and Liberation – PSL
Peoples Power Assemblies
Radical Women – U.S.
Release Aging People in Prison – RAPP
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Students for Justice in Palestine at Hunter College
United National Antiwar Coalition
Workers World Party