Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

1,000 rally in Center City to demand a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war

It was one of several demonstrations worldwide on Saturday.

People rally at City Hall calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas on Saturday.
People rally at City Hall calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas on Saturday.Read moreElizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer

About 1,000 demonstrators marched through Center City Saturday evening to protest Israel’s escalating assault on the besieged Gaza Strip as concerns deepen over the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territory.

Banging drum, pots and pans, and chanting, demonstrators flanked City Hall about 7 p.m. and urged local leaders to demand a cease-fire on the three-week anniversary of the Israel-Hamas war.

Chanting “free, free, free Palestine!“ and ”Gaza, Gaza you will rise,” sometimes in English and others times in Arabic, the crowd marched south on Broad Street, then east on Chestnut Street to the Gayborhood before turning west on Walnut Street on an unusually warm October night as costume-wearing Halloween-weekend revelers watched from sidewalks in front of bars and restaurants.

Noor Qutyan, with the activist network Philly Palestine Coalition, said they hoped the rally would pull people away from their weekend distractions and force them to see “the dire situation in Gaza. It’s 2023. There’s no reason we should be out here on the streets begging for people in Gaza to have electricity and internet and water,” Qutyan said.

Led by organizers with megaphones aboard a yellow truck, the march halted at 18th and Walnut Streets at Rittenhouse Square, where protesters stood atop trash cans and waved Palestinian flags.

No incidents or arrests were reported.

The hastily organized demonstration, convened by Philly Palestine Coalition, came as the Israeli military intensified its bombardment in Gaza. Missile strikes knocked out telecom services in the blockaded coastal strip on Friday, causing a near-total internet blackout and severing most contact between its 2.3 million residents and the outside world, according to the Associated Press. Power was cut off from the area several weeks ago.

The Hamas-led Gaza Ministry of Health, which experts call the sole reliable source for casualty figures in Gaza, said over 7,000 people have been killed in the first three weeks of war, including 2,900 minors, following over 1,400 Israelis killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Tens of thousands more have been wounded and over a million have been displaced in the last three weeks.

“We’re here to tell people out on these streets for Halloween that there is a literal genocide happening,” said Qutyan.

Israel faces mounting international pressure over the civilian casualties and the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. The World Health Organization on Saturday said it was “impossible to evacuate patients without endangering their lives” due to the ongoing bombardment.

The war has generated escalating numbers of demonstrations in Philadelphia and across the United States.

Thousands of protesters reportedly shut down the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday — one of several demonstrations around the world — the day after New York police detained more than 200 protesters for illegally demonstrating inside Grand Central station during rush hour. “Hundreds of Jews and friends are taking over Grand Central Station in a historic sit-in calling for a cease-fire,” the advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace said on social media. The protest echoed the calls at an Oct. 18 sit-in on Capitol Hill in Washington where progressive Jewish groups filled a congressional office building.

A large protest swept Center City last weekend, followed by a coordinated walkout on university campuses and repeated demonstrations outside the Old City office of U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.).

Fetterman and other Pennsylvania members of Congress have rebuffed calls for a ceasefire, while some have requested “temporary cessation of hostilities in Gaza” to allow humanitarian aid to reach the region.