SYDNEY: Thousands took part in a pro-Palestinian march in Australia’s biggest city, Sydney, on Saturday (Oct 21), getting last-minute approval amid concerns after some protesters at an earlier rally had chanted anti-Jewish slogans.
Protesters worldwide on Friday demanded an end to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza after nearly two weeks of intense air and artillery strikes that authorities in the narrow strip say have killed 4,100 people.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Friday to “fight until victory” in Gaza, signalling no pause in his military’s bombardment and expected invasion of the enclave over Hamas’ Oct 7 attack, which 1,400 in Israel and seized hostages.
In Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, around 15,000 people attended Saturday’s march, organiser Palestine Action Group said, with demonstrators chanting “Palestine will never die” and waving Palestine flags. Police, including officers on horseback, patrolled the event that closed city streets, and a police helicopter circled overhead.
Police said no arrests had been made, and Palestine Action Group spokesperson Amal Naser said the march was peaceful.
Protester Barbara O’Neill described Palestinians as “my brothers and sisters”, saying: “They have been suffering genocide publicly and in a very high-profile way.”
Rally-goer James McGlone said people had a “right to know what’s going on with the Palestinians … If they knew what the state of Israel has done and is continuing to do, they would support Palestine”.
A protester who gave her name only as Doaa, said: “I’m here because this is a humanitarian cause first and foremost. And I’m supporting, you know, humanity in every way.”
But Alex Ryvchin, co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the top group for Australia’s Jewish community, said Saturday’s Sydney rally “incited more hatred in Australia” and fractured “fragile social cohesion”.
A rally outside the Sydney Opera House two days after the Hamas attack had ignited heated debate after a small group were filmed chanting “Gas the Jews”.
Pro-Palestine rallies were also scheduled on Saturday in state capitals Brisbane, Perth and Hobart, Palestine Action Group said, after thousands attended largely well behaved rallies around Australia last weekend.