Protestors call for Gaza cease-fire


A group of about 40 demonstrators gathered downtown Friday afternoon to protest the scale of civilian deaths and mass displacement amid overwhelming bombardments and a ground offensive in Gaza on the 112th day of Israel’s war against Hamas, when the Gaza Health Ministry estimated the death toll in Gaza at over 26,000.

Organizers said the purpose was not to take a side in the conflict but rather to reject the toll on civilian life in the occupied territory, which they called a genocide, and to call for a cease-fire. Coincidentally, the action fell on the same day that the International Court of Justice in the Hague warned Israel to ensure its military actions do not violate the 1948 Genocide Convention and to prevent incitements to genocide against Palestinians.

Organizers of the Las Cruces gathering said they were non-hierarchically organized and used social media, Instagram in particular, to invite the public for peaceful demonstrations. Their first gathering, over a week prior, drew just six people, they said, expressing confidence that the community willing to take a public stand for peace was growing.

Participants pounded on drums, displayed signs with messages calling for a cease-fire and the end of occupation with statements such as “End the genocide now,” “Palestinians are people” and “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” There were two Palestinian flags on display and chants of “Viva, viva, Palestina” and “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide; we charge you with genocide,” taking the U.S. president to task for unrestricted military and other aid to Israel, a close ally.

Another chant the group vocalized was “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which has been subject to angry debate nationwide, interpreted by some as a decades-old aspirational call for freedom compatible with a two-state solution and by others as a vow to eliminate the state of Israel. When asked about the chant, organizers recommended the public research the slogan’s history, which predates Hamas.

Hamas, for its part, has employed the slogan while maintaining a policy of driving Israel off of lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. On Oct. 7, Hamas executed a large-scale offensive against Israel, killing around 1,200 and abducting around 240, to which Israel responded with overwhelming military force.

The Las Cruces demonstrators, comprising a range of age groups and ethnic backgrounds, demonstrated for several minutes at the corner of Picacho and Main as rush hour traffic began, near the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, before marching to the entrance of City Hall. Security personnel at the city building asked the protesters to refrain from drumming outside the entrance but welcomed them to hold a vigil. Instead, the group proceeded to march through downtown on Main Street, which was sparse at that hour. The demonstrators made their way to the federal courthouse on Church Street and gathered there to hold an open forum for people to express their views, passing a megaphone around.

There were few encounters with passers-by on Friday, given the time of day and locations. On Picacho, a few cars honked to signal solidarity. At the courthouse, vehicles stopped at the Church Street traffic signal occasionally heckled them. One man in a brown pickup truck was so incensed he drove around the block, parked and approached the group to holler insults at them before storming off.

On Saturday, when a smaller contingent walked to the Las Cruces Farmers’ and Crafts Market downtown, organizers said they met with physical resistance, reporting that two men intentionally bumped shoulders with marchers while someone handing out leaflets was aggressively shoved.

Protestors, demonstrators, Gaza cease-fire