RICHMOND, Va. -- A large crowd formed in Monroe Park Wednesday to stand with Palestine following ten days of violence in the Middle East.
"The vision that we have as organizers of this event is one free Palestine for all, for all of its citizens," said Adeeb Abed, President of the Arab American Association of Central Virginia.
Abed said the rally was in response to the ongoing repression of Palestinians by the Israeli military and police. He compared the laws the Palestinians of East Jerusalem lived under to Jim Crow laws.
"They’re Israeli citizens, but they have no political rights. They can’t vote," said Abed.
Of the killings in Gaza, Abed said it was part of 'an insidious system, a Zionist colonial project, that is designed to replace one people by another.'
Wednesday, he read aloud names of lives lost in those bombings.
Ralliers took that message to the streets, marching up Broad St., calling for the stop of the Israeli bombing of Gaza and settlers seizing of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem. Chanting 'free, free Palestine.'
"We're tired of it. We need our government to stand with us," said Wael Ramadan.
Ramadan said he and his wife were from Palestine.
"Her family is actually from Sheikh Jarrah. Her mother has neighbors that are being kicked out. So, we can’t just sit by and silently allow it to happen," Ramadan said.
Ramadan's children were also there taking part in the movement.
"For them to realize that what’s going on there, we can affect change here," said Ramadan.
Meanwhile, Daniel Staffenberg, CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond said the loss of life on both sides was a tragedy but said the Jewish community in Richmond stood united with Israeli friends and family overseas.
"We have seen 3700 rockets fired at Israeli civilians," said Staffenberg."Israel, we understand has the right as any country would, and the obligation to defend the lives of its citizens."
Staffenberg added that he believed this was not actually about Israel itself, but about Hamas indiscriminately firing missiles at a civilian population.
He said on top of that, Hamas was committing the double war crime of firing those missiles from Palestinian civilian areas, thereby putting civilian lives in danger at the same time.
"This is a terrorist organization firing missiles at citizens, and that is unacceptable," Staffenberg said.
The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond planned to hold a virtual 'Stand with Israel' meeting Thursday at 5 p.m.