Philly families march calling for permanent ceasefire in Gaza

A permanent ceasefire resolution, divestment from Israeli bonds, and uncommitted primary votes were top of mind for rallygoers.

people marching in the street for a ceasefire

More than 100 people marched down Germantown Avenue from Lovett Memorial Library to the Johnson House Historic Site to demand a ceasefire in Gaza on April 6, 2024. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

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Families banged pots and pans and waved signs as they marched down Germantown Avenue in Philly’s East Mount Airy neighborhood Saturday, calling on Philadelphia City Council to pass a resolution supporting a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Jason Carr, an organizer with Families for Ceasefire Philly, said as a father of young children, he has worked to include families and young people’s voices in calling for a ceasefire.

“The situation in Gaza is genocide. There are multiple generations of families being killed daily. And the only suitable response, I think, is for families to unite, and to speak against that genocide,” he said.

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Jason Carr speaking at the rally
Jason Carr from Families for Ceasefire Philly was one of the organizers of the rally. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

At Saturday’s rally, which was co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace Philly, Philly Palestine Coalition and Christian Jewish Allies, marchers called for action at the local, state and federal levels. The demands include: passage of a permanent ceasefire resolution by Philadelphia City Council; divestment from Israeli bonds at the state level; and at the federal level, an “uncommitted” vote from Democrats on the presidential primary ballot.

Israel has bombed and invaded the Palestinian territory for six months, killing more than 33,000 people and displacing 1.7 million Gazans. The siege on Gaza began after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that killed more than 1,100 Israelis. Hamas took around 240 people hostage.

Israel restricted food entering Gaza and has been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, a charge the country denies. More than 25 Palestinian children have died of malnutrition, according to the World Health Organization, and a U.N.-backed report said famine is imminent in northern Gaza. The report found that the entire population of Gaza is already facing severe food insecurity. 

“We’re calling for an immediate ceasefire. There have been too many innocent lives lost at the hands of Israel,” said Stormy Kelsey, who attended the Saturday rally with her young child. “And I want people to recognize that being anti-Zionist does not mean being antisemitic. We’re all here to fight for human life.”

Kids were among the speakers at the rally on Saturday.

Nazar, 9, who marched with his family, said he wanted to speak up for the children who have been killed in Gaza.

“I was talking about if my life was in Gaza, I wouldn’t be able to go play with my friends basketball, pray with my family, talk to my friends, I would be on the ground and…I would normally wake up from the sound of my mom and dad. But if I was in Gaza, then I would wake up to the sound of bombs, possibly the last scene of my life,” he said.

scenes from the rally
Nur, 10, center, spoke at the rally calling for a permanent ceasefire on April 6, 2024. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

Nur, 10, also spoke at the rally with Camp Sojourner, an organization which provides leadership training and mentoring for girls in Philly.

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“People like me, they’re getting bombed  … They barely have food to eat,” Nur said. “And now … I feel what they’re going through because I’m fasting.”

March attendee Kelsey said including kids in the discussion around the Israel-Hamas war is important.

“Throughout history, young people have led the way, and young people have been involved in movement building, and we can’t shy away from our children understanding what’s happening politically, especially when it impacts them, when the systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, imperialism, when they impact our young people we need to include them in the conversation,” she said.

“It means a lot for this to be an intergenerational march, and I’m just really happy to be here and see so many families with their little ones, from infants, and then also elders are here, so it’s just really beautiful and it’s an act of solidarity across the board.”

Since the fall, Philadelphians have shown up in large numbers, holding vigils, marches and demonstrations calling for a permanent ceasefire and protesting the U.S. government’s support for Israel.

Activists of all ages have walked out of class, blocked entrances to 30th street station, criticized media coverage, rallied at the offices of members of Congress, been arrested protesting the state’s investment in Israel bonds, shut down part of I-76, and stopped traffic on the Ben Franklin Bridge.

On Thursday, Philadelphia City Councilmember Nicolas O’Rourke withdrew a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza after pro-Palestinian activists disagreed with the language in the resolution.

In a statement on Instagram, the Philly Palestine Coalition said that the resolution text, which they viewed Wednesday night, “was not at all in alignment with what community members in Philadelphia had previously proposed,” including demands for a permanent ceasefire, an end to the siege on Gaza and a statement that “the attacks taking place constitute genocide.”

The International Court of Justice ruled in January that it was “plausible” that Israel has committed acts that violate the Genocide Convention, but said the court could not determine at that time whether Israel was guilty of genocide, defined by the Genocide Convetion as committing specified acts “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

After the court’s decision, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Israel has an inherent right to defend itself,” and the charge of genocide was “blatant discrimination the Jewish state … We will continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people.”

After U.S. President Joe Biden warned Netanyahu in a phone call Friday that continued U.S. support for Israel is dependent on allowing more aid into Gaza, Israel has said it plans to open border crossings to allow more aid to reach northern Gaza.

International pressure on Israel to broker a ceasefire deal is mounting after seven World Central Kitchen aid workers were killed by an Israeli airstrike on Monday. Negotiators are currently preparing for ceasefire talks on Sunday.

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