Sunday afternoon, thousands of people gathered in San Francisco to protest the current Israeli military operations in Gaza.
Since July 8, Israel has launched an ongoing assault on Gaza as part of Operation Protective Edge in retaliation after the discovery of three bodies of Israeli college students.
The consequent attacks aimed at Hamas have resulted in a Palestinian death toll of 500 and counting, the majority of which are reported to be women and children. The attacks have sparked global outcries, protests and demands for ceasefire.
In response to these developments, students and Arab groups from around the Bay Area collaborated in the streets of San Francisco to make their call for peace heard.
The march began outside the ferry building at Justin Herman Plaza at around 3:30 p.m. Protesters of all ages and nationalities donning traditional Palestinian scarves, waving flags and carrying signs with slogans such as "Stop Collective Punishment" and "Justice for Palestine" congregated at the plaza, where several speakers addressed the crowd prior to the march.
In his speech, Hatem Bazian, Near Eastern Studies lecturer at UC Berkeley and chairman of the San Francisco chapter of American Muslims for Palestine, criticized US aid to Israel and called upon the protesters to continuously speak out against injustice.
In addition to the majority Arab protesters, many non-Arab groups and individuals gathered to show their support, such as members of the women's rights advocacy group Code Pink, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, and Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT). An estimated 6,000 protesters were present during the two-mile march to City Hall.
Among the peaceful protesters were students from UC Berkeley as well as UC Davis. For many students, this is not the first time they have participated in a protest demanding peace in the Middle East. The UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine (Cal SJP) have previously organized campus-based marches, theatrical demonstrations and peaceful protests to raise awareness and support for Palestine.
Taliah Mirmalek, a recent UC Berkeley graduate and Cal SJP affiliate, was present at the march.
"It was really powerful to be amongst over 6,000 people, all of whom had come out in support of the Palestinian people," Mirmalek said. "The most beautiful aspect of the protest was the diversity of faces and voices all speaking out for justice and against the US-backed state of Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people."
Former ASUC Executive Vice President Nolan Pack also joined the protesters in the march, and expressed his dissatisfaction at the lack of local news coverage, calling it "disappointing."
Unis Barakat, a third-year UC Berkeley student from Gaza with firsthand knowledge of the conflict, was at the forefront of the procession, conducting organized chants on a megaphone.
"Innocent civilians are being bombed every day," he said.
"One of the few things that we can do as college students is to protest to raise awareness, and hopefully that pushes the public to put pressure on the government to end U.S. funding to Israel, so that we, as U.S. citizens, don't feel like we are part of this genocide."
Barakat was also interviewed by the NBC Bay Area news team at the conclusion of the march. You can see what else he had to say in their report of the protest.