Thousands of people took to the streets Saturday afternoon at a rally in downtown Chicago to show support for the Palestinian people amid a growing humanitarian crisis spurred by war between Israel and Hamas.
The demonstration stretched for blocks as it made its way down Michigan Avenue, turned at the river and returned to Congress Plaza. Attendees held signs and chanted passionately as they demonstrated, but the crowd was well organized and there were no reports of violence.
One man, who asked that his name not be used, said he hoped that one day the region would see a lasting peace. “We could live together, it’s a big land… But why do innocent people have to die? We don’t want people to die, on both sides.”
He said he feared for his brother’s family living in Gaza, where their home was destroyed in airstrikes last week. He said his brother and his children have been without access to water, gas and electricity for days and have had a difficult time reaching medical aid, due to the Israeli blockage of the area.
“All these people are hurt, they’re dying,” he said. “At least, open it up for medical assistance.”
The latest Israel-Hamas war has claimed more than 3,000 lives on both sides in the week since Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Oct. 7.Protesters said their primary aim was to put pressure on politicians, particularly those in Illinois. Demonstrators noted that many lawmakers, from Gov. J.B. Pritzker to Chicago City Council members, have made statements of support for Israel.
“We’re here to pressure our own government,” one demonstrator said. “But we’re also here as part of a global mobilization to show all the complicit parties that we are watching, and we are paying attention.”
On Friday, city leaders passed a resolution condemning last week’s Hamas attack in Israel during a special City Council meeting during which Mayor Brandon Johnson cleared the public from the council’s chambers as supporters of Palestinians and Israelis shouted over each other.
“It makes me sad that we have to fight for people to see us as human beings,” a 24-year-old woman who came to the demonstration told a reporter. “Coming out here feels like, do we have hope? Is this just going to happen again in a few years?”
The war began last week in a surprise attack with rockets and Hamas militants breaking through Israeli border fortifications, gunning down civilians and soldiers in towns as far as 15 miles from the Gaza Strip.
Israel declared war on Hamas and responded with airstrikes that have left entire neighborhoods in Gaza in ruins. On Friday, Israeli authorities told people living in Gaza to move south ahead of anticipated ground fighting, potentially displacing more than a million people.
International aid groups warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis after Israel prevented the entry of supplies from Egypt to Gaza’s 2.3 million people. Local aid groups told the Sun-Times they have received a flood of donations but are struggling to get it to people who need it inside Gaza because of Israel’s blockade.