Pro-Palestine demonstrations continue for fourth week

Free Palestine protest on Saturday, Nov. 4 in downtown Corvallis outside of the Benton County Courthouse.
Free Palestine protest on Saturday, Nov. 4 in downtown Corvallis outside of the Benton County Courthouse.
Hayden Lohr

The voices of over 150 protesters could be heard throughout downtown Corvallis on Saturday morning as pro-Palestine demonstrators marched through downtown and the Southwest First Street farmer’s market in a call for peace.

Free Palestine protest on Saturday, Nov. 4 in downtown Corvallis outside of the Benton County Courthouse.
(Hayden Lohr

The event was the fourth demonstration put on by the Corvallis Palestine Solidarity group and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, since the war in Gaza began.

Valorie George, an organizer of the event and member of Corvallis Palestine Solidarity explained the demonstration’s goal as both a call for ceasefire and an opportunity to unite like-minded members of the Corvallis community.

“This is a public way of saying, ‘Yes, there are other people that want to humanize the Palestinians,’” George said.

According to George, the groups’ protests have followed suit of Jewish pro-Palestine movements, though the events put on in Corvallis are not associated with any specific religious or cultural groups.

“We’re really following the lead of those Jewish activists,” George said.

Protesters began lining the sidewalks facing the Benton County Courthouse at 11 a.m., waving flags and raising signs that elicited honks of support from passing vehicles.

For the past four weeks, local Veterans for Peace President Rick Staggenborg has been a part of the group of protestors, handing out informational flyers which compared death tolls between Israel and Palestinian citizens over years of the prevailing conflict.

“I’m passionate about peace issues,” Staggenborg said. “And I don’t think there can be peace in the world until we have peace in Palestine.” 

Around 11:30 a.m., the group of demonstrators gathered around the courthouse stairs to listen as an organizer made statements regarding the protest.

Heba Bader stands outside of the Benton County Courthouse at the “Free Palestine” protest on Saturday, Nov. 4 2023. (Hayden Lohr)

The demonstrators were encouraged to obey traffic laws and to withhold from engaging with any opposing reactions.

As sheets of rain puddled over walkways and wilted cardboard signs, the group made their way through town, starting down Northwest Monroe Avenue, Southwest First Street and Northwest Harrison Boulevard.

“Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry, Palestine will never die” was one of several chants that echoed off the windows of restaurants and businesses as the protestors filed past, many of whom were adorned in keffiyeh scarves – a traditional Arabic headdress that has become a symbol of Palestinian solidarity.

Dr. Maye Mohamed was born and raised in Corvallis where she said the community was always accepting and prone to “peace and love.”

Walking among the group holding a sign reading ‘CEASE FIRE NOW’, Mohamed said she felt proud of her community. 

“They really showed out today,” Mohamed said.

As the walk approached the Corvallis Farmers Market being held on Southwest First Street, the group stopped and huddled together to continue their chants as market goers stopped to observe, some joining or clapping along with the demonstrators.

“It’s beautiful to see so many people care about it,” one onlooker said.

The demonstration then concluded at the courthouse with a short speech by organizers of SUPER.

SUPER began their chapter at Oregon State University in 2017, however, due to loss of leadership and the graduation of many of its members, SUPER is now working to revive its presence on campus.

One SUPER member’s voice called through her loudspeaker as she spoke to the gathered crowd, urging them to contact state representatives and express their opposition to American support of Israel.

“What we’re doing is working,” she said. “Our voices have power.”

Heba Bader, another SUPER member, explained that trying to go on with daily life is hard when she knows that people are suffering.

“You can’t sit comfortably at home,” Bader said. “You have to do something about it.”

The Rev. Bonnie Tarwater, who was at the demonstration, agreed with Bader.

Heading a congregation at the Church of Our Common Home in Dallas, Oregon, the Rev. Tarwater traveled south to Corvallis to join the demonstration.

Beginning Nov. 11, Rev. Tarwater will head an interfaith prayer vigil preceding the weekly protests, an effort she hopes will bring together members of all faiths under the Palestinian cause.

“We need to come together to grieve and to share our rage,” Rev. Tarwater said, “but also to give birth to new ideas of how to live in the world, for peace and justice for all.”

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