Thousands rally in urgent last-minute demonstration for Gaza

Following the Israeli bombing of al-Ahli Arab Hospital, protesters called for an immediate ceasefire

Photo Andraé Lerone Lewis

On the evening of Oct. 17, pro-Palestine protesters filled the street in front of the US Consulate in downtown Montreal.

This emergency protest was called in response to the deadly Israeli air raid attack on al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, where at least 500 people were killed, according to the Gaza health ministry. This is the third protest in support of Palestine this week in Montreal, with more to come.

Organizers, including the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Concordia, organized the demonstration in only a couple of hours after hearing the news. 

“There are over 5,000 people here with under two hours of mobilization,” explained Sarah Shamy, an organizer with PYM. 

“This shows that our people are glued to the screens,” she added, “they want to see justice and they want to see accountability.”

The rally shifted into a march as protesters headed to the Israeli Consulate. Chants including “Free, Free, Palestine” and “Solidarity with Palestine” could be heard across the crowd, with many attendees moved to tears while still processing the day’s atrocities. 

“Part of me is here to seek support from our community,” said Noor, who is part of SPHR Concordia. “I can say for all my fellow Palestinians, that this week has been almost unbearable. A lot of survivor's guilt, of course, wondering why we're here and why we're not there.” 

Many people in attendance were grieving for family and friends in Gaza. One demonstrator, Rania, attended the rally “to defend the people of Gaza, to give them a voice.” 

“I have a lot of relatives in Gaza,” she said, “[my husband’s] family house, his whole neighbourhood, was bombed today. All his childhood friends and neighbours died. His family made it out miraculously.”

“This is not a retaliation,” she continued. “This is a massacre. It’s a genocide.” 

Shamy added that many people are not able to get in touch with their families. On Oct. 7, Israel cut off electricity to Gaza, alongside food and other supplies. 

“Some people's families have been murdered,” she said. “And this is what we're seeing today and this is why people are angry.”

Shortly after the attack in Gaza, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a public statement. “The news coming out of Gaza is horrific and absolutely unacceptable. International humanitarian and international law needs to be respected in this and in all cases.”

“Canada is trying to save face,” Noor said in response to Trudeau’s comment. 

Up until this point, Trudeau has routinely expressed Canada's support for “Israel’s right to defend itself in accordance with international law.” 

“[Canada has] already ruined the relationship with an entire Arab community and more now,” said Noor. “But I think really all we can do is just look at the people, and try to get them to put more pressure on the government.” 

“We want an end to the bombing of Gaza immediately,” said Shamy. “The civilians are dying as we speak. And they are being bombarded as we speak. And we want Canada to end its material support and its diplomatic cover for the Israeli state.” 

On Oct. 12, Canada began airlifting citizens, families and foreign nationals out of Tel Aviv. The country also announced $10 million in funding for humanitarian assistance for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. 

“[SPHR Concordia has] kind of mixed efforts right now. Part of it is towards our own community,” said Noor. “[we’re] setting up healing circles, vigils—anything we can, really, to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves and each other. And of course, we're also looking to educate the community.”