A crowd gather in Kingston’s Market Square on Sunday afternoon to mark 100 days since violence and destruction skyrocketed in Israel and Gaza.
An invasion by Hamas on October 7 was responsible for the deaths of over 1,200 Israeli citizens and over 200 taken hostage, and kicked off an indiscriminate Israeli military retaliation that has been unrelenting and killed an average of 250 Palestinians per day.
The pro-Palestinian crowd on Sunday wanted to ensure the Palestinian struggle remained visible to the community at a local level, highlighting the horrific conditions Palestinians have been forced to live under for years, with the looming fear of Israeli military strikes hanging over their heads currently as the heightened conflict continues.
Zainab Naqvi, a volunteer with Queen’s Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), said the large crowd that gathered showcased that while some may think the momentum calling for a ceasefire and Palestinian freedom is dying out, it’s still very present in people’s minds.
She says they also wanted to present the message that governments and leaders should be doing more to intervene, and should have done more by now.
“the fact that yesterday we still had at least a hundred and fifty people show up goes to show that the people are not going to be quiet,” Naqvi said.
“The movement is alive and we’re loud and we’re here to kind of call on our government and the world that we’re not gonna rest and that this hundred day mark is just sad and disappointing and this should be changing.”
Naqvi said it’s important to have hope even as the heightened violence stretches past the 100 day mark and death tolls continue to rise, and recently South Africa making a case against Israel to the International Court of Justice showcases that there are international leaders that are willing to take a stand.
Meanwhile protestors don’t feel they’re being supported by their local leaders, SPHR says that at the end of November Queen’s University pressured the group into removing any mention of “martyrdom” from a vigil on the university’s campus – an instance the group says is blatant Islamophobia.
Naqvi said rallies like the one on Sunday are meant to bring awareness and create a safe space for grief, but also hope to compel action from local leaders.
“I really want to see the MP take a clear stance calling for a ceasefire and also outlining the genocide that’s happening in Palestine,” Naqvi said.
“I’d also like to see this kind of statement coming from the mayor’s office and it’s disappointing that we haven’t seen it yet… I think their silence is complicity… We saw it in Burnaby, we saw it in Toronto, these statements do make a difference. It shows support for the people of Palestine and on a broader note it shows support for human rights.”
While news of the horrors ongoing in Gaza continues to flood people’s news feeds and social media timelines, Naqvi also hopes that people don’t become desensitized to the barrage of bad news.
She says rallies like the one on Sunday keeps the suffering of Palestinians in the forefront locally.
“We’re scrolling through our social media we’re maybe just reading headlines and we are becoming numb to the suffering of Palestinians,” Naqvi said.
“We cannot normalize this, we cannot let ourselves become numb to the death and suffering of Palestinians and we have to make sure that we continue advocating for them and realize the horror of what’s going on… we need to be loud and we need to make these conversations happen as they’re dying down.”