Marching for Shireen: Hundreds rally on the 74th Nakba

Montreal youth joined demonstrations worldwide to commemorate the anniversary of Nakba Day

The inclimate weather did not put a damper on the passion of the protesters during the Nakba 74 protest in Montreal. Photo Caroline Marsh
Protester holds Palestinian flag amid the downpour. Photo Caroline Marsh
Protester at the Nakba 74 protest in Montreal holds sign condemning the May 11th killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Photo Caroline Marsh
Protesters at the front of the Nakba 74 march hoist the Palestinian flag. Photo Caroline Marsh
Protester holds up peace signs in front of riot cops at the Nakba 74 protest in Montreal. Photo Caroline Marsh
Protester helps carry a large Palestinian flag during the Nakba 74 march in Montreal. Photo Caroline Marsh
Palestinian protester and representative from Neturei Karta — Orthodox Jews United Against Zionism — hold Torah together. Photo Caroline Marsh
Representatives from Neturei Karta show their support for Palestinians during the Nakba 74 protest in Montreal. Photo Caroline Marsh
Protesters shield themselves from the pouring rain under their signs and flags, but continue to march. Photo Caroline Marsh
Nakba 74 protesters included people of many demographics, including the elderly and children. Photo Caroline Marsh

Hundreds of Montreal youth marched in commemoration and mourning on the 74th anniversary of Nakba Day amidst ongoing violence in Palestine. 

The day’s events were organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, the McGill and Concordia chapters of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, and Voix juives indépendantes Montréal. Organizers led the crowd in a march along St-Catherine Street towards Old Montreal, where a vigil for slain Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, was scheduled.

Demonstrations began at the Consulate General of Israel in Westmount, and were largely peaceful. Protesters chanted, held signs, and occasionally lit fireworks and red, green black and white smoke in commemoration of the Palestinian flag. Dozens of riot police interrupted the march midway, but retreated after the crowd continued to advance. Heavy rain ultimately hampered plans for a vigil in front of the Notre-Dame Basilica, where the event ended.

Similar demonstrations were held in cities around the world, including Toronto, Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, and Berlin. May 15 is the day of the Nakba, which is Arabic for “catastrophe.” It refers to the mass displacement of Palestinians following the day after the end of the British occupation of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

“We’re gathering here to commemorate the Nakba, which saw the destruction of over 530 villages, the murder of 13,000 Palestinians and the forced expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians, condemning thousands more to a life of exile,” said Sarah Abdelshamy, a member of PYM.

Before organizers led the crowd through the city, members of the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) Nation addressed the crowd.

“The colonial agenda comes right out of Britain, and has divided the entire world,” said Stuart Myiow Jr. of the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake. “It puts us in the same circumstances even though we are on different sides of the world.”

The event comes one year after the 2021 Israel-Palestine Crisis, marked by eleven days of airstrikes and rocket attacks in Gaza and Jerusalem. The crisis resulted in the death of hundreds of Palestinians and more than a dozen Israelis.

Days before the anniversary, Israel’s military was accused of assassinating Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Eyewitnesses say Abu Akleh was shot close to the ear while wearing a helmet and press vest, and on assignment covering raids on a refugee camp conducted by Israel’s military. 

Video footage of Abu Akleh’s funeral procession showed Israel police violently attacking pallbearers, drawing international condemnation. In a tweet published May 14, Israel Police said “the Israel Police Commissioner, in coordination with the Minister of Public Security, has instructed that an investigation be conducted into the incident.”

Authorities in Palestine and Israel will conduct separate investigations into the killing of Abu Akleh.

Abu Akleh covered the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine for twenty five years, and was an icon and renowned journalist in the Arab world. Her funeral drew thousands of Palestinians in mourning, and she’s since been hailed ‘a daughter of the people.’ Dozens in the crowd in Montreal held photos of Abu Akleh as they marched in her honour.

“Shukran, Shukran ya Shireen,” they chanted. “Thank you, thank you, Shireen.”