Defying cold, demonstrators again protest Israel-Hamas war in downtown Raleigh

Demonstrators calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war and an end to U.S. strikes on Yemen blocked streets in downtown Raleigh as they marched Sunday afternoon.

About 150 people, bundled tightly against the biting cold, attended the well-organized march. Some carried signs and flags. About 20 marshals donned florescent green vests to protect the crowd as it moved along a route lined with Raleigh police officers directing traffic.

“We will continue to show up until we see a cease-fire,” Noor Abualhawa, one of the organizers, shouted to the crowd as the rally began around 3 p.m.

Protesters in the Triangle have for months been demonstrating against the Israeli siege of Gaza. Another group drew national attention when they blocked the Durham Freeway in November.

The present conflict, which began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, has grown into the deadliest of the five Gaza wars. More than 25,000 are reported dead, most of them civilians.

Protesters marched through downtown Raleigh on Sunday, January 21, 2024 demanding a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Protesters marched through downtown Raleigh on Sunday, January 21, 2024 demanding a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

“The U.S. is supporting a genocide,” Manzoor Cheema, a march organizer and member of Muslims for Social Justice, told The News & Observer. “And when a crisis like that happens anybody who has been observing the reality cannot just stay quiet. And that’s why so many people are speaking out.”

Sunday’s was at least the 22nd rally, march or protest held in Raleigh on behalf of Gaza since the conflict began, Cheema said.

Before leaving Moore Square, demonstrators chanted “Shut it down!” and erupted in cheers as a caravan of cars with Palestinian flags thrust through sunroofs and out windows honked past.

Led by a police escort, the marchers walked through the center of the street, traveling west on Hargett Street, south on Dawson Street, then east on Martin Street before pausing outside the Wake County Justice Center.

Many of those present were families with children.

“Seventy percent of people killed in Gaza are women and children. Seventy percent,” Cheema said, citing United Nations statistics shared last week. “That’s why we need to organize, and we have to bring the whole family.”