Protesters gathered in New York City on Friday, 22 July to demand freedom for Bilal Kayed and all Palestinian prisoners. Kayed, on hunger strike since 15 June, is demanding his release from administrative detention without charge or trial. He has refused all supplements, vitamins, salt or medical examinations and has consumed only water for the entire time; he is currently held in Barzilai Hospital, shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed.
Kayed was scheduled to be released after 14.5 years in Israeli prison on 13 June 2016; instead he was ordered to six indefinitely renewable months of imprisonment without charge on the basis of secret evidence.
Hundreds of Kayed’s fellow prisoners have joined in the protest movement inside Israeli jails; the Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement, representing all of the major Palestinian political parties, pledged support for his protest. Dozens have joined a collective open hunger strike, pledging to refuse food until Kayed is free.
In New York City, this is the third Samidoun protest in solidarity with Kayed’s strike; last week, Samidoun joined a number of prisoner advocacy and Palestine solidarity groups for a panel, “Imprisoned Resistance,” highlighting struggles for liberation inside and outside prisons in the U.S. and occupied Palestine. Several participants in Friday’s protest joined after learning about Kayed’s case at the large panel, which drew hundreds to the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Center in Washington Heights.
Participants were excited to learn about the events taking place around the world to support Palestinian prisoners, and especially the news that ADEDY, the Greek trade union representing 400,000 public workers, had officially called for a protest in solidarity with Kayed in Athens on 28 July.
The protest took place outside the offices of G4S, the multinational security corporation that contracts with Israel’s prison administration to provide control rooms, security systems, and equipment to the jails that imprison Palestinians. It also is involved in youth incarceration and migrant deportation and detention in the United States, UK, Australia and elsewhere and is globally criticized for its poor human rights record.Palestinian prisoners, civil society organizations and international groups have urged a boycott of G4S for its profiteering from oppression, apartheid and imprisonment.
The protest took place as part of the global days of action for Bilal Kayed’s freedom, from 20-30 July. New Yorkers will join in several upcoming actions to demand freedom for Bilal Kayed and fellow Palestinian prisoners. New York City Students for Justice in Palestine will be protesting on Monday, 25 July as part of the World Student Day of Solidarity with Bilal Kayed and Palestinian Prisoners; and Samidoun will be back outside the G4S offices on Friday, 29 July for another protest for freedom for Kayed and his fellow 7,000 Palestinian prisoners. Samidoun activists will also travel to Philadelphia to join the 26 July SJP Ona MOVE protest outside the Democratic National Convention focusing on U.S. and Palestinian political prisoners.
Photos/video by Joe Catron