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Standing up in Ottawa against Israeli attack on peace activists

Ottawa rally. Photo: @onefemalecanuck

One year a go, at this time, I entered the besieged Gaza strip with a convoy of about 60 people from different origins and professions. We wanted to show solidarity with Gazans who suffered from a terrible war, death, destruction and devastation.

Our journey ended safely one week after we arrived. We all returned home, each one of us with a story, pictures and tears to share with families, friends and communities. Unfortunately, the tragic events that happened yesterday where one of the boats of the flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza was attacked in international water by an Israeli commando and more than 10 activists were killed, were totally opposite.

Once again I felt powerless after such terrible events. I had in my mind the houses still in rubble waiting to be reconstructed, the cries of an old woman over the loss of about 25 individuals of the Samouni family who were decimated by the bombardment of the Israeli military airplanes and the images of bullets in almost every wall in Gaza. So, I decided to go and protest in the streets of Ottawa and denounce with my voice the killing of innocent people.

I arrived at the Human Rights Monument with a friend. The crowd was of a good size, about three hundred people. I listened to the different speakers, one after another, all with the same message: they all denounced the attack and demanded accountability for what happened. I was very surprised to hear from one of the organizers that no one of the Ottawa MPs responded to the invitation or showed up at the protest. Indeed, I didn't see or hear any one of them. The only brave exception however, was a representative from "Québec Solidaire", a provincial political party, with a message to read. His voice and words filled a very scary gap.

The atmosphere was tense and people were taking every opportunity to clap, call for "Free Gaza, Free Palestine" and show their support with the Palestinian people. They were people from different origins, ages and groups. They were united by one thing: their solidarity with the Palestinians and their disgust with the pictures they were able to watch on all TV networks: the blood of the peace activists. After all the speeches were done, the crowd marched slowly to the Langevin building which was under heavy security (I hope the spending does not reach a billion dollar similar to the upcoming G8 and G20 security spending...) and under the surprised stares of some by-passers who would stop, watch and then go. But not all of them. I saw one young lady, who was simply watching the demonstrators passing by the National War Memorial. She ran across the street to get one of the pamphlet being distributed. Her curious eyes stroke me. I hope she will be the one person who can read more about this tragedy and would one day help in her own way to alleviate some of the suffering the Palestinians have been going through.

The chanting became more passionate in front of the Prime Minister's office. Some employees from inside looked at us through windows. I wonder who do we look to them from top? The Israeli flag was still moving in the wind, a sign of the brief passage of Netanyahu to Ottawa. The crowd kept growing and the police presence as well. My son who came with me was so happy to be able to touch one of those big police car patrols...I am sure he would be bragging about it the next day at school. Slowly, we moved again to the Parliament hill. Young people went up on the stairs just in front of the peace tower and started chanting more slogans. One speaker reminded the crowd that there were Canadians with the flotilla and that so far their fate wasn't known. Our heart and prayers should be with them. Their courage should be a reminder for all of us that we can change things. We just have to choose on which side of the history we want to be: observers, indifferent or activist and participants.

Our march didn't stop there. We went again across the streets of Ottawa and stopped at the Israeli consulate. I didn't see anyone looking from the windows: they were tinted and the building so tall. After that stop, the crowd started to fade.

We did the same after we arrived back to the Human Rights Monument. My friend and I walked to the bus stop. Our kids were very tired. I think they learned a good lesson of civil rights: you can protest peacefully and try to make your voice heard... At least to some people...

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