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Thousands March in San Francisco to Support Palestine

The San Francisco march appeared as a vast sea of red, black, white, and green, as protesters waved Palestinian flags in those colors that had been provided by organizers.

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Protestors wave flags and signs in support of Palestine and against the Israeli occupation in San Francisco's Dolores Park on May 15. Photo by Zack Haber.

Protestors wave flags and signs in support of Palestine and against the Israeli occupation in San Francisco’s Dolores Park on May 15. Photo by Zack Haber.

Abdul (left) and Rami (center), stand at a protest in San Francisco’s Dolores Park to support Palestinians and against the Israeli occupation on May 15. Photo by Zack Haber.

On Saturday, thousands gathered in San Francisco’s Mission District at 2:00 p.m. to march in support of Palestine and against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

“It gives me hope that people are waking up who didn’t know about this issue, including people who used to be Zionists, but just can’t find it defensible anymore,” said San Francisco resident Saif Haddad as he stood on a trash can gazing out into a densely packed marching crowd that covered more than four city blocks.

Haddad told The Oakland Post that his grandmother was forced from her homeland in Palestine in 1948. Since then, she has not been allowed to return. Haddad himself has never been able to visit the land where his ancestors once lived.

The march was organized in part in response to the state of Israel’s recent attacks on Palestine. On Monday following the march, Democracy Now! reported that over a two-week period ending on Sunday, Israeli attacks killed over 200 Palestinians including over 50 children, injured over 1,300 and left over 40,000 Palestinians homeless.

The march also responded to the history of Israeli occupation by occurring on Nakba Day, an annual day of commemoration for Palestinians marking the day after the British government formally declared the end of its mandate to recognize the state of Palestine,  recognizing Israel in its place on May 14, 1948. Beginning in 1949, Palestinians have commemorated Nakba Day every May 15th with remembrance and protest.

“For my family, Nakba is about why we are here and not our homeland,” said Rami, a Palestinian teenager living in San Ramon who attended the march. Rami’s grandparents were originally displaced from their home in 1948, then bounced back and forth between Lebanon and different parts of Palestine before moving to the United States in the late 1960s.

Rami said that the march was one of the happiest things he had ever been a part of and that he’d not seen so much awareness for Palestine since he was born. He also noted broad national and international support. An article appearing in Buzz Feed News documented other pro-Palestine protests on May 15 in Paris, Tokyo, Madrid, Wash., D.C., Canada, Ireland, Mexico, and London, where organizers say about 100,000 supporters showed up. In Los Angeles, thousands showed up to a march to free Palestine in the Westwood neighborhood, where they stalled traffic.

The San Francisco march appeared as a vast sea of red, black, white, and green, as protesters waved Palestinian flags in those colors that had been provided by organizers. Before the march started, about 50 Palestinians and supporters painted a giant circular street mural on Valencia Street that Palestinian artist Chris Gazaleh had sketched out. It included symbols supporting Palestine such as women wearing keffiyeh scarves, red poppy, and the Palestinian flag with the words “we will return” in Arabic and English.

While many Palestinians came to the march, the crowd was diverse and supporters from many different backgrounds joined them. A young Palestinian child held a sign that read “SAVE THE CHILDREN OF PALESTINE” while a Jewish man from Berkeley in his late 60s carried a sign that read “SON OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS AGAINST ISRAEL’S RACIST OCCUPATION.” An indigenous person held a sign that read “NATIVES 4 PALESTINE.”

The march was loud. Drummers and organizers lead chants and the crowd yelled in response. A few were in Arabic, one of which, according to a Palestinian protestor, translated to “with our life, with our blood, we will sacrifice for Palestine.” 

Most chants were in English, including one where protestors yelled “not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes.” This chant referred to the $3.8 billion that the United States has been sending to Israel every year since 2016, which has continued under President Joe Biden, who recently approved $735 million in weapons sales to Israel. One marcher held a sign which read “Stop US Aid to Apartheid Israel.”

After marching for about two miles in the Mission District, the protestors entered Dolores Park. There, members of the local anti-Zionist groups spoke.

Monadel Harzallah, a Palestinian member of the United States Palestinian Community Network, said “We have no illusions about the US administration here. It doesn’t matter if they disagree with racist Trump, they are following his footsteps when it comes to Israel.”

Continuing, Harzallah accused Biden of not having the courage to reverse any of Trump’s policies in relation to Israel.

Allison Tanner, a Baptist pastor from Oakland and a member of Friends of Sabeel North America, a Christian group seeking peace in Palestine through an end to the U.S.-supported Israeli occupation, said, “We know that Christian Zionists are wielding their power in Washington to help fund and provide political cover for Israel’s war crimes. We are here to decry the evils that they are doing in the name of Christianity and to commit ourselves to challenging Christian Zionism in all its ugly forms.”

Liza Mamedov, of the Jewish anti-Zionist activist group Jewish Voice for Peace, said “The state of Israel has always required, at every step, the forced displacement, racist oppression, fascist surveilling, occupation and apartheid; in one word: genocide against the Palestinian people. As colonized people living under brutalized occupation and siege, Palestinians are overwhelmingly justified in resisting their oppressors by any and all means necessary.”

Members of The Palestinian Youth Movement and Black Alliance for Peace also spoke. The protest started winding down around 6:00 p.m., when Palestinians and supporters left Dolores Park. Hours later though, small groups of people, most of whom appeared to be teenagers or in their 20s, could still be seen driving around the Mission District, honking horns and cheering as they waved Palestinian flags.

Activism

Jasmine Market Encourage Unity in Marin City

During the event, Jong Lee, Caitilin Damacion, and Tammy Lai discussed how to raise the awareness of the various ethnic groups to each other in Marin City. A mobile clinic provided free COVID-19 vaccines.

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Top: The Jasmine Market at the St. Andrew Presbyterian Church. Bottom: Jong Lee, Caitilin Damacion, Tammy Lai (Photos by Godfrey Lee)

The First Marin City’s Jasmine Market was an inclusive, outdoor market celebrating Asian joy and intercultural solidarity in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May.

It was hosted by the Marin City Community Development Corporation (MCCDC) and was held at the St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Marin City on May 28, 2021.

A Marin City Librarian read an AAPI story. Sammy Brionnes gave a musical performance. Natalie Nong performed a Spoken Word poem.

During the event, Jong Lee, Caitilin Damacion, and Tammy Lai discussed how to raise the awareness of the various ethnic groups to each other in Marin City. A mobile clinic provided free COVID-19 vaccines.

Lee is the director of Women’s Rights and Peace Bay Area, and a board member for the Asian American Alliance of Marin. She is involved in advocating for ethnic studies in the Marin County School District and is working to spread awareness of the “comfort women” from Korea and other Asian nations. These women were forced to serve as sexual slaves for Japanese soldiers during WWII.

Tammy Lai is the CEO at Foundation for Justice and Peace (jpf.world).

Damacion, who lives in the East Bay, is the Micro-Enterprise Program Manager at the MCCDC.

During the discussion, Lee says that God created people in his image. We need to treat people in the image of God.

Lee really wants to see Asians, especially women, integrate with the other minorities, such as Koreans, who can become culturally isolated, and spoke to the need to bridge and understand other ethnic groups. “We need to step forward to meet each other halfway, and to reach out to understand each other,” Lee said.

Lai says that we have this opportunity, as we question ourselves in this cultural landscape, to build bridges. Communities become healthier when its members take one step toward one another to understand, listen and to build something better together.

Damacion, who is Filipino and mixed-raced, feels very strongly about building connections that are positive and beneficial to a community. Through her work with the MCCDC, she will work to advance diversity in Marin City, and will shed a light on the beauty she sees in Marin City and how people in the community took care of each other for generations.

Lai’s family immigrated from China to America after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882. Her family history has brought her a deeper awareness of her identity. It becomes important to carry these conversations forward and share them with others.

“We all have our stories and should be open to tell them. There is nothing new under human history so we should learn to share them. You become much closer to each other,” says Lee.

For more information, go to www.marincitycdc.org/jasmine-market

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Activism

California Pushes Back on Judge’s Decision to Outlaw State’s Ban on Assault Weapons

According to Statista Research Department, California had a total of 22 mass shootings  between 1982 and 2021.

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assault rifle courtesy sctimes

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta announced last week that the state has appealed a federal court’s decision that declared California’s ban on assault weapons unconstitutional.

Several state officials, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, also shared their disagreement with the court’s ruling during a press conference held at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. The state partnered with a number of gun control advocate groups for the event, including the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Giffords Law Center.

“We can agree that the decision was disappointing,” said Bonta. “In many ways, the opinion was disturbing and troubling and a big concern, but we cannot be, and we are not, deterred by this,” he said.

Federal Judge Roger Thomas Benitez presided over the decision in Miller v. Bonta. The case was heard at the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.

Bonta said his office has appealed the decision, requesting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit leave the current laws in effect for 30 days.

California’s gun laws are some of the strictest in the nation under the Roberti–Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA) which bans the use of specific models of firearms classified as assault weapons.

In the pending court case Miller v. Bonta, James Miller, a lawyer who serves as a board member of the San Diego County Gun Owners, advocated for the use of the AR-15 rifle. However, the semiautomatic rifle with certain features is an illegal assault weapon according to California gun laws.

Miller argued that AR-15 rifles can be used for self-defense under the second amendment. Miller, who also serves on the Cajon Valley School Board, initially challenged former Attorney General Xavier Becerra on California’s criminalization of AR-15 rifles in April this year.

The ongoing case, which Bonta inherited, sparked heated debates about gun laws in the wake of increasing gun violence and mass shootings.

Breed recalled her personal experience with gun violence growing up in the Bay Area.

“We’re here at San Francisco General Hospital. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been here after a friend that I grew up with was shot,” she said.

Breed was joined by Mattie Scott who lost her son to gun violence. The mayor grew up with Scott’s son who was killed in 1996 at a graduation party in San Francisco.

“We don’t want to see another person, another child lost to gun violence in this city in this state in this country,” said Breed.

“We’ve had a law on the books in the state for over 30 years, and a judge decides that our law is no longer constitutional. That law has saved countless numbers of lives,” she said.

According to Statista Research Department, California had a total of 22 mass shootings  between 1982 and 2021. In the court decision, Benitez compared the effectiveness of an AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army Knife. Based on the federal court’s ruling, the semiautomatic machine gun is, “Good for both home and battle,” said Benitez.

“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” the federal judge said in favor of Miller.

Although the murder of Scott’s son remains unsolved, she is an avid activist for social justice related to gun violence.

“The judge who issued this decision is wrong,” said Scott. “It is insulting to read his decision when he called the kind of weapon that killed my son akin to a pocketknife,” she said.

“Pocket knives don’t tear families apart. They don’t shoot up schools, churches, movie theaters, and street corners,” she said in reference to the recent mass shootings across the country.

Contrary Benitez’s belief that AR-15 rifles can be compared to pocket knives, trauma surgeon Dr. Andre Campbell said that the semiautomatic rifle is a lethal assault weapon designed for the battlefield.

“An AR-15 is a weapon of mass destruction. It is used in the battlefield to kill the enemy. It’s a gun that is used in warfare and should not be available or used in the streets of the United States,” said Campbell.

Campbell has treated many bullet wounds on the frontlines of trauma care for more than two decades and has witnessed the devastation a single bullet can cause to the human body.

“It is as if a bomb went off in the tissues of patients,” said Campbell describing the impact of an AR-15 bullet in patients he’s treated over the years.

Giffords Law Center Executive Director Robyn Thomas said that the federal judge’s decision to give civilians access to military-grade weapons sets California’s gun laws back by 32 years.

“The decision is not based on the correct interpretation of the law,” said Thomas.  “The comprehensive gun regulation which we have pioneered here in the state is protecting the lives of Californians. It is making us safer,” she said.

In its budget for 2021-22, the state has allocated $200 million for the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program. The investment was set up to prevent gun violence in high-risk communities statewide.

“Folks that wax on about public safety and (then) they sit back passively and say nothing about this outrageous decision. Shame on them. What frauds,” said Newsom.

The governor urged lawmakers to evaluate the absurdity of the court’s decision to justify the personal use of a rifle that is, “nothing more than a weapon of war,” he said.

The governor said that gun control has always been a bipartisan issue that helped California lawmakers enact, “progressive and aggressive,” gun safety laws that regulated the people’s right to bear arms for over three decades.

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Activism

California Awards Ceremony Celebrates the Best of Ethnic Journalism

“Ethnic media has quickly become an increasingly indispensable bridge for communicating with diverse populations within our state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the opening ceremony.

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AbsolutVision; Business Paper

Some 30 ethnic media journalists were honored for their coverage of the epic events of 2020 at a virtual California Ethnic Media Awards ceremony, which took place June 3.

Selected from 235 submissions from reporters working in print, digital, TV and radio (in eight languages), the winners were chosen by judges with language and cultural fluency who know the challenges of working in the sector.

“Ethnic media has quickly become an increasingly indispensable bridge for communicating with diverse populations within our state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the opening ceremony.

“You have worked against enormous odds to make sure our communities were informed about historic news events of the year. You are key to sustaining an inclusive communications infrastructure that knits our communities together when so many forces, as you know well, threaten to drive us apart,” the governor added.

The multilingual awards were sponsored by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media. Each winner received $1,000 in cash. Entries were submitted in nine categories:

  • The 2020 census,
  • The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on ethnic communities,
  • The economic crisis that exacerbated racial and economic fault lines in California, the rights of immigrants,
  • The movement for racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, exceptional reporting on the impact of climate change, the 2020 elections, commentary that serves as a call to action for ethnic audiences, and community media innovation and resilience to survive the pandemic.

“Thank you to all the journalists, reporters, editors, photographers and publishers who work long hours without recognition every day. You are committed to telling stories and covering underreported stories that we would otherwise never hear,” said Regina Brown Wilson, Executive Director of California Black Media.

In their acceptance speeches, the awardees recognized the support of their editors, publishers and families, as well as the challenges of covering ethnic communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, racist policies, and hate crimes.

“Words can be deadly, or they can be life affirming. While the idle intellectual elite strive to cancel culture, we are tasked with removing the knee out of the throat of truth and reaffirming and defining journalism in our own image,” said Rose Davis of Indian Voices, awarded for her landmark essay: “The Census and the Fourth Estate,” which advocates for the participation of Native Americans in the census despite centuries of being excluded.

Danny Morrison, winner in the category of English language broadcast TV for his analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement in Bakersfield said that “as an African American man in central California, I’ve always known that we have a lot of work to do regarding the inequities within our ethnicity. That is the reason why my team and I went to prisons, schools, churches, youth groups and more to speak to the underserved and the forgotten because we understand the struggle that in most cases we have lived through.”

Jorge Macias, awarded for his digital coverage of climate change for Univision, recalled how in the last four years, “we all suffered from the denial of climate change, and even in moments of terror in California with these devastating fires, the former president (Donald) Trump said that science didn’t know. This prize means a lot because as human beings we have to battle with that absurd view denying climate change.”

Hosts for the evening were Odette Alcazaren-Keeley and Pilar Marrero, both distinguished veterans of the ethnic media industry. Some 20 elected officials, community leaders, scholars and writers paid tribute to the sector in videotaped remarks.

Sandip Roy, once a software engineer in Silicon Valley, now an award-winning author and journalist in India, said if it weren’t for ethnic media giving him a platform, he wouldn’t be a writer today.

After presenting awards to Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese reporters for stories on issues impacting Black and Latinx communities, Alcazaren-Keeley announced a special judge’s award for cross-cultural reporting.  The winner, Jeanne Ferris of News from Native California, documented how the destinies of two groups of people converged when Japanese Americans were incarcerated in World War II on reservation lands.

At the closing of the ceremony, Sandy Close, executive director of Ethnic Media Services, said the coming together of reporters from so many racial and ethnic groups to celebrate not just their own but each other’s work was the real takeaway for the night.  “Ethnic media are like fingers on a hand,” she said, quoting Chauncey Bailey, a veteran of Black media killed in 2007 for investigating wrongdoing in his own community. “When we work together, we’re a fist.”

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