Over one hundred thousand people attended Palestine Action Group Sydney’s sixth protest urging to stop the genocide in Gaza on 19 November. It was held in Hyde Park North and co-chaired by Assala Sayara, Dalia Al-Haj Qasem, and Josh Lees.
Prior to the speeches, Free Palestine Printing handed out free posters whilst volunteers mounded piles of rubble, toys, bloodied body bags, prams, and posters donning messages like “Bombing kids is not self-defence”. Both children and adults painted their faces and hands red, and wore t-shirts bearing the names and ages of deceased children.
Chants in English and Arabic included slogans such as “ceasefire now”, “shame to the world/Israel/USA/Albanese”, and “Dear Gaza, we are with you till death”. A new chant was also introduced: “From Australia, Palestine, occupation is a crime”. The primary message was for Palestinian liberation, as peace and occupation cannot coexist.
Sayara opened the protest, saying, “How much more bloodshed do you want to see to call for a ceasefire?” She spoke about experiencing anger and heartbreak when viewing the daily images from Gaza, warning about the dangers of desensitisation. Sayara concluded by calling for condemnation of the Zionist occupation — distinct from Judaism — emphasising Palestine’s right to freedom and self-determination.
The first speaker was Aunty Shirley who saw parallels to black slavery and racial injustice in America. She also called out Australia for heeding American political will and interests.
Co-chair Al-Haj Qasem talked about being a child of diaspora and granddaughter of the Nakba. She stated that Palestinians have been robbed of a free childhood and that “only Israel is bombing hospitals”. Qasem also commemorated the Palestinians killed over the years, including the four boys of the Bakr family playing soccer on the beach in 2014, paramedic Rouzan Al-Najjar during the 2018 Great March of Return, double-leg amputee Fadi Abu Saleh shot by a sniper, and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in 2022.
Omar Al-Ouf, Palestinian activist from Gaza, spoke about those killed, abducted and tortured in his family, as well as the heroism of medical professionals under the threat of bombardment. He listed off all complicit world leaders, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and deplored the media aversion to using the terms “apartheid”, “ethnic cleansing” and in some instances, “Palestine” itself in coverage.
Co-chair Lees explained the Palestine Action Group’s volunteer efforts, and the upcoming week’s agenda, including a candlelight vigil with healthcare workers at Westmead and a protest at Chris Minns’ office for 20 November. Protests will continue in Parramatta this Thursday, in addition to the global walkout of students on Friday, where he urged attendees to spread the word. Lees also reminded people of the incoming ZIM Israeli shipping line and that there will be a protest when the ship arrives in Botany Bay.
Another Palestinian activist spoke about her family’s history as fallahi or agricultural farmers, until the land was sold and depopulated, with Palestinians used as cheap labour. They noted that Palestinian liberation did not entail becoming an “Israeli citizen”, and that it was “dismantling the racist, Zionist ideology” of the Israeli state. They also invited attendees to engage with the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement to make Israel “a bad investment”, citing success in South Africa.
David Shoebridge, NSW Greens Senator, reiterated his party’s commitment to bringing protester’s voices inside and outside the Senate and Parliament. He spoke on the government’s lies regarding weapons exports to Israel, and that “everytime a F35 flies over Gaza…the machinery to open up its bomb doors was built in Australia”.
The speeches concluded with a 12-year-old Palestinian child who said children should have access to education, healthcare and a proper life rather than worry for their safety. She also asked the poignant question of why she, a child, had to lecture adults in leadership to call for a ceasefire.
Protestors recreated the atrocities committed against Palestinian children with audio of screams and bombardment playing in the background, as children laid down on the ground like corpses. Adults stood behind them and took a knee whilst the names of deceased children were recited. Then, everyone stood up, putting their painted hands in the air before turning to point to the large banner where more names were displayed.
Attendees proceeded to march towards Elizabeth St, Market St and then to Pitt St. Just after Westfield Mall, some police officers took to the front of the protest and stopped those leading the chants. There was a standstill due to police concern about the passage through the rest of Pitt St. Protesters shouted “let them pass” and “let us pass”, and, after a few minutes of discussion, the march resumed as normal.
NSW Police personnel presence was accompanied by all types of automobiles — cars, vans, buses, motorcycles — across the streets of the Sydney CBD as protesters gradually made their way back to Hyde Park or attempted to seek public transport.
A seventh protest will be held at Hyde Park North on Sunday 26 November from 1pm.