At 10 a.m. on Saturday, January 10, a group of about 10 people began to gather in front of the Greyhound bus station on the corner of Chapala and Carrillo streets. They held signs and joined together in a protest organized by the Santa Barbara-based People’s Coalition to oppose what they called the “genocide” being committed against Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli government.
The demonstrators, who called for an immediate halt to the violence and U.S. aide to Israel, consisted of UCSB staff and faculty, Persian and Lebanese student groups from UCSB, members of Santa Barbara’s Muslim community, and other concerned Santa Barbara citizens. The group likened the events in Gaza to the Holocaust and displayed images of badly burned and wounded Palestinian children as proof toward their assertions.
The Santa Barbara protest was one of many organized in various countries around the world on an international day of solidarity with the people of Gaza. People in many countries have been calling for an end to what’s being called a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Although the core group of protesters were sympathizers of those under fire in Gaza, two proponents of the Israeli military siege of the Hamas-controlled territory also gathered to voice their perspectives on the conflict.
Emotions ran high on Saturday, and there were some minor verbal altercations between protestors and passing motorists. One man drove by twice to argue with protestors. “Stop Hamas’s rockets from going into Israel!” he shouted. Other drivers honked and gave thumbs up in support of the peace demonstrators. There were also some verbal spats between the respective groups of demonstrators, although one pro-Israel protestor attempted to ease tensions by offering the other side bottled water; his offer was declined. Despite these occurrences, the event was peaceful for the most part, and passed without major incident.
The protest ended around 3 p.m. with the Gaza sympathizers, who had grown to around 30 people, having relocated the protest to a march up and down State Street, shouting slogans along the way. There is no word yet as to the organization of subsequent demonstrations.