Pro-Palestine protesters rally in front of City Hall On Indigenous People’s Day, the pro-Palestine protest related their struggle to a global movement against colonialism; the rally was held days after a surprise attack against Israel by Hamas and met by a smaller counter-protest. Words by Maggie Grether, Laura Ospina and Yurii Stasiuk. Photos by Maggie Grether and Kate Estevez.

Over 100 protestors rallied in front of City Hall Monday afternoon to support Palestinian resistance.

Photo by Kate Estevez

The rally-goers were met by a smaller but lively protest by supporters of Israel. Conflict between the two groups caused New Haven Police to erect barricades separating the protestors half an hour into the rallies. The rally to support Palestine was organized by the Connecticut chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, in collaboration with Yalies4Palestine, Semilla Collective and Unidad Latina en Acción.

According to Jacey Long, an organizer with CT DSA, the rally had been planned before the militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel over the weekend, to coincide with Indigenous People’s Day.

“This is a fight that all colonized people globally are facing,” Yasmin Bergemann ’24, president of Yalies4Palestine told the News. “We have to continue fighting back, stand with each other and uplift the resistance of Palestinians in Gaza right now.”

As the rally began, protestors on the Israeli side shouted “baby killers” and “murderers” and pro-Palestine protesters echoed the insults.

While Palestine supporters chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” pro-Israel protesters blasted Israeli pop music from speakers, waved Israeli flags and danced. New Haven Rabbi Eli Raskin, part of the pro-Israel gathering, said their dancing was an expression of grief through joy.

As tensions rose between the two groups, New Haven police separated the protesters. Lieutenant Brendan Borer, downtown district manager of the New Haven Police Department, said police erected the barriers about half an hour into the protests to prevent potential violence.

Photo by Maggie Grether

“I can see that opposing sides were getting into the other faces of the other group,” Borer said. “They're both allowed to share their side and enjoy the First Amendment rights, but what we don't want happening is something violent like a fight.”

Yesterday’s rally came after Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel during the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah on Saturday. In response, the Israeli government carried out a series of airstrikes and formally declared war against Hamas, the Islamist militant group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

As of Monday night, at least 900 people have reportedly been killed in Israel and more than 680 in Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas has also taken dozens of Israeli hostages, according to the Associated Press.

Mayor Justin Elicker, who earlier released a statement of support to Israel on X, previously known as Twitter, denounced the protest as supporting Hamas to the News.

"[It] is deeply disappointing that individuals came out to use language and rhetoric that is so inflammatory and misguided, supporting Hamas at a time when hundreds of people are dead,” said Elicker. “I think that the protest that was organized today was ill-advised and sets the wrong tone. We need to support our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

Bergemann responded to Elicker’s statement Monday night.

Having grown up and lived in New Haven throughout her life, Bergemann said she found Elicker’s message disappointing.

“Our protest was to affirm the right of Palestinians to resist violent colonial oppression,” Bergemann said.

Conflict over and in the Gaza strip predates the 1948 formation of Israel as a state. This century began with the five-year “second intifada” — meaning Palestinian uprising — during which Palestinian militants carried out suicide bombings against Israel, and Israel’s more powerful military responded with home invasions and targeted killings, among other controversial and deadly measures. Over 4,000 people — roughly three times as many Palestinians as Israelis — died during those five years, per the Associated Press.

In 2005, Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip and dismantled the settlements it built in the region. By 2007, Hamas gained control of Gaza; Israel then established a blockade of the region that is still in effect, prohibiting Palestinians in Gaza from leaving the 25-by-seven mile strip of land.

Human Rights Watch calls Gaza an “open-air prison” for its 2.2 million residents.

According to a World Bank report from 2021, restrictions on the movement of goods and workers have contributed to an unemployment rate of 44.7 percent and an 80 percent dependency on international aid among Gaza residents. A 2022 UN Human Rights Council report, found that Palestinians in the region also severely lack access to clean water and electricity for more than a few hours a day.

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, has documented several Israeli airstrikes in recent years that have targeted militant leaders and killed several Palestinian civilians, including children.

Supporters of Palestinians relate their struggle to decolonization worldwide

On the south side of City Hall, pro-Palestine protesters held signs reading “Honk 4 Palestine” and “Not Two Equal Sides: Occupier and Occupied,” waved Palestinian flags and chanted “From Palestine to Mexico, the wall has got to go.” Multiple speakers in support of Palestine said that Palestinian resistance to Israel is part of a global movement against colonialism.

Photo by Maggie Grether

Kooper Caraway, the executive director of the Service Employees International Union in Connecticut, told the News after his speech that he came to the rally because he is Kiowa Apache. The struggle of Palestinians against Israel, Caraway said, mirrors the struggle of Indigenous people in the United States.

He also mentioned the significance of the protest occurring on Indigenous Peoples Day.

“This is what Indigenous Peoples Day is for,” Caraway said. “To celebrate the historic resistance against colonialism by Indigenous people in the United States and all around the world.”

Chris Garaffa, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation in New Haven, gave a speech in which he called on attendees to resist Zionism in the United States. After his speech, he told the News that he wants Congress to stop approving military funding for Israel. The U.S. sends more than $3 billion in annual military assistance to Israel.

Faisal Saleh, founder and executive director of the Palestine Museum US in Woodbridge, Connecticut, told the News he was frustrated with his perception that much of the American public does not understand the history of violence against Palestinians that preceded Hamas’ recent attacks.

“I think the people of Gaza have had enough,” Saleh said. “They’ve been under siege for sixteen years, and they can’t take it anymore. They’d rather die and get it over with, than the slow death they’re experiencing with Israel.”

Stanley Heller, who spoke at the rally on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace, denounced the state of Israel as a “fascist theocratic regime.” Heller said that the pro-Israel protesters on the other side of the rally, by waving Israeli flags, were appropriating Jewish symbols to uphold apartheid.

Debby Elkian, a Jewish New Haven resident who stood on the pro-Palestine side of the rally, said that even though she cares about Israel and has loved ones in the country, she believed the pro-Israel protesters were trying to deny Palestinians their rightful voice.

“Palestinians have every right to live in freedom and flourish as much as any Jew,” Elkian said. “I feel strongly about this: occupation is not my Judaism.”

Pro-Israel protestors decry Hamas violence against Israelis

On the opposite side of the police barricade, pro-Israel protestors waved Israeli flags and danced to music they played through speakers. Rabbi Raskin said the protestors gathered to show their faith in God and —despite the weekend’s violence — they are “grieving with joy.”

Several of the Israel supporters told the News that they had not specifically gathered to counter-protest the pro-Palestine rally.

Photo by Kate Estevez

Lynn Rabinovici Park and Karen Rabinovici, sisters born in Israel, traveled to the protest from Madison and Westport, Connecticut respectively. The sisters said they went to show support for Israel amid what they described as a “living nightmare” for the country.

“No matter what you think about Israel … there is no excuse for slaughtering and kidnapping,” Rabinovici said. “It is never excusable to engage in those kinds of human rights atrocities.”

Rabbi Raskin pointed to Hamas’s human rights abuses as his motivation for attending the rally, saying he couldn’t justify sitting home and “doing nothing.” He added that according to the Book of Genesis, God gave Israel to the Jewish people, giving Israelis a valid claim to the land.

Rabbi Joshua Pernick, the director of Jewish life at the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, told the News that pro-Israel protesters did not attempt to engage in a dialogue with the Palestine supporters at the rally because he said they are “a fringe group” lacking legitimacy. He accused the pro-Palestine protesters of supporting the killings of Israeli civilians.

Attendees of the pro-Israel rally did, however, repeatedly crowd speakers at the pro-Palestine rally before police separated the two groups.

“I was being physically moved and pushed by someone as I was speaking,” Bergemann told the News at the rally. “Although New Haven police was here, they did not do anything about that even though he was coming physically onto me.”

Video of Bergemann’s speech recorded by the New Haven Independent corroborates her account.

Once police separated the protest, the rallies ended after about 90 minutes. Many of the attendees of the pro-Palestine rally next went to a celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day happening on the New Haven Green.

The New Haven branch of CT DSA, formed in 2017, is the first Connecticut branch not affiliated with a university or high school.

Kaitlyn Pohly contributed reporting.

Contact Maggie Grether at maggie.grether@yale.edu, Laura Ospina at laura.ospina@yale.edu and Yurii Stasiuk at yurii.stasiuk@yale.edu.

Correction, Oct. 10: An earlier version of this article said there was no further incident after police separated the protest, which is not necessarily true; the piece has been edited accordingly. It has also been updated to include Bergemann’s account of being pushed during her speech.