In the heart of Winnipeg’s bustling downtown, an animated crowd of over a hundred passionate citizens had congregated on a Monday afternoon, raising their voices to echo the sentiments surrounding the contentious Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Freedom for Palestine!” echoed fervently through the air, a rallying cry from the spirited crowd at City Hall at half-past two on that autumn afternoon of October 9.
Dozens of demonstrators wielding Palestinian flags and placards emblazoned with poignant messages like “stop bombing Gaza” and “Justice, not fascism” converged at the rally. Main Street, thrumming with activity as vehicles honking in solidarity sped past City Hall, bore witness to their protest.
Candice Bodnaruk, organizer of the occasion affiliated with Peace Alliance Winnipeg, stated, “Today, we stand in opposition to Israel’s policies directed towards the Palestinian people.”
The historical feud between Israel and Palestine reawakened this past Saturday, when Hamas militants instigated an unanticipated attack on Israel. Havoc unfurled in several border towns alongside the Gaza Strip and a music festival, culminating in hundreds of casualties. Israel retaliated, escalating its assault on the Gaza Strip and barricading it from necessary supplies such as food and fuel.
Casualty reports from local authorities and media suggest that, in Israel, approximately 900 deaths have occurred while Gaza has witnessed over 680, accompanied by thousands of injuries on both sides.
The unruly situation has evoked criticism from the Winnipeg demonstrators, who demanded a change in Canada’s stance on the conflict. Their assertion – as voiced by Bodnaruk – is for Canada to advocate peace and armistice on both sides, supporting not only Israel but also the Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Present to ensure the rally’s peaceful conduct, the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) had dispatched 11 officers to the scene, closely monitoring the proceedings.
Meanwhile, a minor cluster of about half a dozen people bearing Israeli flags stood across the street in solidarity with their side of the conflict.
One of them, Ron East, founder of the Israeli-Canadian council, addressed the rally in vociferous opposition. East cited the shocking attacks as the most horrific incident faced by the Jewish people since the Holocaust. He firmly expressed his staunch support for Israel while criticizing the pro-Palestinian sentiment.
The pro-Palestinian group, as clarified by Bodnaruk, refrains from endorsing violence of any nature. She stated, “People are averse to wars and violence. The aspiration is for the Palestinian people to be granted a worthwhile life.”
East drew attention to the plight of Winnipeggers with Israeli ties, stating they, too, moved here for a better life and hoped to distance themselves from their homeland’s turmoil, albeit unsuccessfully.
A rally to collaborate support for Israel, organized by the Israeli-Canadian council, is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10, at 7 p.m at the Asper Community Centre.