While driving to the West Side Market on Saturday for the weekly pace vigil with a few of my fellow peaceniks, I heard Jacqueline Gerber mention on WCLV, Cleveland’s classical music station, there would be a “March for Humanity” on Public Square from 1 to 4 p.m. that necessitated changes in some bus routes, which she specified. The title of the event appealed to me as it sounded like it was something where my peace flag would be appropriate and welcomed. So, after the peace vigil and lunch with two fellow peace activists Rick Hlavaty and Tom Nowel at the Koffie Cafe on Market Street across West 25th Street from the West Side Market, I headed downtown for the “March for Humanity.”
Turns out the event was actually organized by the local Palestinian community and was the biggest such gathering ever, with 1,000-plus attending, including a few moms with babies. “Free Palestine” reverberated throughout. Palestinian flags were in abundance, with some draping the flags over their backs. Young children carried small flags of the state ol Palestine. A huge majority of the women in the crowd wore the traditional hijab head covering while several men wore the keffiyeh, a black and white checkered scarf around their head and neck.
One woman wearing a hijab asked if she could take my picture with her phone and I complied of course, saying “We need more peace in the world.” A young woman behind her nodded in agreement. One man said, “Thank you for being here.” Long-time friend Don Bryant, a devoted supporter of Palestine, greeted me. I said, “Hi Don. I haven’t seen you for centuries.” He smiled, noting he finally got a car, having relied on his bicycle for transportation. It was good to see him. As Don walked away he mentioned he reads my articles (on my Cleveland Peace Action blog).
After the speeches at the rally, the crowd marched west on Superior Avenue, but I stayed behind, standing next to steps leading up to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. One young man who stopped to chat was clearly annoyed by the rally, saying he had recently returned from Israel where he has family. He added, “They’re okay,” indicating his relatives were not harmed by the Hamas attack. Referring to the Palestinians at the rally, the young man said, “How can they support terrorists?”, meaning Hamas. But I think he seriously misread their mindset. I’m convinced the Palestinians at the rally simply want peace–to work, pay their bills and raise their children–in short, to enjoy life and to be left alone by Israel. I pointed out–as delicately and diplomatically as possible to the young man–“Israel has done some bad things to Palestine. It’s back and forth. It’s complicated.” He didn’t argue my point and said “It is complicated.”
As the young man started to walk aiway, I said, “I was in Vietnam for a year. I like peace better than war.” He said, “Me too.”