Love and Support for Gaza, Solidarity from Michigan

Love and Support for Gaza, Solidarity from Michigan

By Thasin Sardar

While the people in Gaza demonstrate what it means to be resilient in the face of relentless airstrikes against their homes and civilian infrastructure, the people in the Greater Lansing area showed what it means to be resilient and steadfast in their solidarity and support for the people of Gaza despite a snowstorm which they braved to ride on a bus journey to a rally to Washington D.C. on Jan. 12th, 2024. 

When the rally was announced back in mid-December, several of us spontaneously made a commitment to join it. On the day we were supposed to depart, we got between 6 and 8 inches of snow in the Greater Lansing area and several more inches in many other parts of the state. Cathryn Young, who rode the bus with us, joined us all the way from Muskegon. She left home in the morning to beat the storm and reached the Islamic Center of East Lansing, at 2 p.m., although the bus departure time was 9 p.m., as she did not want to miss the bus.

Fifty-four people had signed up for the trip, mostly from the Greater Lansing area but a couple each from as far as Muskegon, Mt. Pleasant and Grand Rapids as well. The people joining us from far and wide on a two-day trip to D.C. and back was a testament of solidarity with the people of Gaza from all across Michigan.   [insert 2 pictures: one group picture from of the bus and another showing Michigan for Palestine front of the White House]. And if there was another bus going from Lansing, we could have easily filled that up as several students started calling in the days just before the trip and by then the bus was full. In all, over a dozen buses departed from various cities in Michigan and several others drove in their own personal vehicles and some chose to fly to the rally.

Ten minutes after we departed on the bus, we saw a semi had crossed the median between north and southbound US-127. That sight left me wondering what the next 10 hours of our ride to D.C. would entail! Our driver, Raheem Wilkerson, kept a steady hand at the wheel and

foot on the pedal and drove us safely out of the storm in Michigan. Once we were well into Ohio, he picked up speed and with a couple of rest area stops, he got us into D.C. around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13.

A group of women at the Islamic Center prepared to-go meal packages which we enjoyed during the long journey to D.C. with new found friends that sat next to us on our bus seats. The long ride was filled with exchange of stories and opinions with fellow co-passengers. 

We broke into smaller manageable groups and identified our meeting point for our scheduled departure 12 hours later and dispersed into the crowds of marchers in D.C. Unlike the grey skies and snow laden roads of Michigan, D.C. felt pleasant as there was plenty of sunshine and temperature was around 50 degrees. We had taken flags of several countries that are strongly protesting the crimes against the people of Gaza, namely South Africa, Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon etc.

As we marched, we witnessed people expressing their support in various forms- from waving flags to singing to enacting the crimes being perpetrated by the Israeli Defense Forces. The site of the rally was packed, and we could barely see the stage as there were between 450,000 people rallying.

Our group members stayed in touch with their respective group leaders to make sure no one was lost or in need for any support. The speeches were inspiring and the crowds were roaring with support for the people of Gaza. One individual in a Spiderman costume climbed up a light post and waved the flags to the pleasure of the cheering crowds.

When the speeches ended, we started marching around the streets and the spirit was very uplifting in the togetherness and common cause. Despite the lack of sleep on our onward journey and spending the entire day standing at the rally and walking around, no one showed any signs of tiredness nor a desire to quit.

Having made our voices loud and clear by being part of this historic march on D.C., we started making our way back to the designated departure point in D.C. Everyone gathered at our departure point at the Union Station on-time, and we took headcount and started our return journey back to Michigan.

At daybreak the following morning, Sunday, Jan. 14, we arrived back in East Lansing to find our cars covered in solid ice from the snowstorm 36 hours prior and the drop in temperature that followed. We bid farewell to our fellow passengers, and vowed to continue our struggle to secure the freedom and rights of the Palestinians, and the most urgent need to secure a lasting ceasefire to save them from the brutal assault by the Israeli occupation forces. Until that happens, we will keep demanding ceasefire now, and free Palestine, in every avenue, and every opportunity we get.

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