At 1 p.m. on Sunday, crowds gathered in the Waterloo Public Square to show solidarity with Palestine and demand a ceasefire in Gaza. The rally was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), a “transnational, independent, grassroots movement of young Palestinians dedicated to the liberation of [their] homeland and people.”
Several UW students attended the event, and information about the rally was also shared by UWaterloo Voices for Palestine, a student group which led a walkout on campus in support of Palestine on Nov. 7.
The rally began in the Waterloo Public Square, where speakers led a series of chants, including “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation’s got to go” and “Not a conflict, not a war.” As attendees made their voices heard in the square, several passing cars honked in support.
Chidi Umenwofor-Nweze, a 4A systems design engineering student at UW, attended the protest in hopes of putting pressure on Canadian politicians to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
“I think [the protest] achieved its aim of standing in solidarity with Palestinians, raising awareness, and disrupting the day-to-day comfort we enjoy here in Waterloo. I hope onlookers felt uncomfortable, and were able to take a moment to reflect on how they can contribute to ending this violence,” they said.
Before leading the crowd into King Street, speakers addressed those present at the rally. In addition to calling out world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden, protestors made it clear that they demand action from leaders in Kitchener and Waterloo. Crowds criticized Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger for her lack of criticism towards Israel and chanted “Bardish Chagger you will see, Palestine will be free.”
While at the intersection of King and University, the crowd gathered in front of Starbucks and chanted for a boycott of the company. The boycott movement comes after the company sued its union for sharing a post to social media which read: “Solidarity with Palestine!”
“It was heartbreaking to see toddlers (who still needed to be carried by their parents) chanting for the end to a genocide — it’s painful to think they have any comprehension of this word,” Umenwofor-Nweze said. “I hope that soon, there won’t be a need for any protests. But until then, I invite more people to show up, apply pressure, and use whatever power and influence they have to do what is right.”
Speakers at Sunday’s rally also aimed to highlight the connection between the Truth and Reconciliation efforts in Canada and the fight for liberation within Palestine. “From Turtle Island to Palestine, occupation is a crime,” was a recurring chant during the rally. One Anishinaabe speaker addressed the crowd as they marched near the intersection of King Street and University Avenue, explaining that decolonization movements are inextricably linked. “My father did not survive residential schools for me to look away,” she said.