60,000 Rally at Texas Capitol in Largest Palestine Protest in the State’s History
November 26 2023
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On Nov. 17, more than 60,000 people gathered at the Texas State Capitol in Austin for the largest pro-Palestine protest in the state’s history, and the fifth largest protest overall in the state’s history.

The protest was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, National Students for Justice in Palestine, the Palestine Solidarity Committee at the University of Texas at Austin, Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Texas at Dallas, Rice University Students for Justice in Palestine, and Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Houston, drawing crowds from most major cities in the state. 

Forty buses were arranged to transport protesters from Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and College Station into the heart of Austin as a crowd amassed from morning till dusk. Crowds carpooled from El Paso to attend the event. 

Protesters united to demand a ceasefire from their political representatives, with organizers calling for an end to all U.S. and Texas government complicity in Israeli crimes as far as overseas funding, weapons sales, and political impunity. The rally began with chants and speeches and ended with a march around the Capitol itself, lasting from 2 p.m. into the evening. Organizers arriving as early as 5  a.m. for set-up, demonstrated a strong commitment to the cause.  

Laila Mohamad, a student affiliated with Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Texas at Dallas helped organize the rally. She addressed the broader financial implications of the state of Texas in the Palestinian liberation movement.

 “Texas is one of the largest states, and has contributed significantly to the Zionist entity,” Mohamad said. “[such as] through the establishment of relationships with Israeli settlements [leading to] economic exports to Israel [amounting to] around $900 million.” 

Mohamad’s chapter of SJP recently spearheaded the passing of an anti-militarism resolution with their student government at the University of Texas at Dallas. 

Speakers at the protest included Nida Abu Baker (Daughter of Shukri Abubaker of the Holy Land Five), Mai Abushaaban, Nawaf Abulhaija, Dana Fattouh, and others, who drew comparisons between the policies of President Joe Biden and Texas Governor Greg Abbott concerning Israel. 

Protesters ride horses, one waves a large Palestinian flag at Texas State Capitol protest in Austin. Image by @sanaheet_ on Instagram.

Fouad Salah, 22, attended the rally as an organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement in Houston. He believes Texas stands near the center of the battle for Palestinian freedom in America.  

“We have to understand that Texas is a hotbed for anti-Palestinian rhetoric,” Salah said. “Which is expressed materially through state repression and a lack of resources for Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim community members,”

Salah added that the state of Texas has led the campaign to criminalize pro-Palestine activism. The state has recently tried to silence Palestinian voices and to materially harm Palestinian residents. 

“We see this through the establishment of anti-BDS laws, which makes it illegal for government contractors to knowingly boycott Israel,” Salah said. “If forcing Texans to choose between their job and their constitutionally-protected rights wasn't dystopian enough, the Texas governor Greg Abbot cheered on Twitter as the Hilton Hotel unjustly canceled the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights conference, issuing horrifyingly racist and Islamophobic statements which vilify the just movement for Palestinian freedom and dehumanize those who have the courage to fight for it.” 

Daniel Synder, an organizer with Rice University Students for Justice in Palestine, drove to Austin from Houston and back on the same day. Synder belongs to a growing network of private Southern universities establishing SJP chapters that are carrying out major actions in their localities.

“[P]eople don't expect Texas to be a hub of social movements, so our actions can be especially helpful [in] showing national support of this issue [and in] dismissing this myth,” Synder said. “[Greg] Abbott has also gone to Israel and offered [the country] monetary support from our tax dollars, which puts us in a position to be able to show [that] he does not represent us.”

A plan with a banner that says, "Save Palestine  Cease fire now" flies by the Texas State Capitol Pro-Palestine protest in Austin. Image by @r.a.n.i.a.rania on Instagram.

Texas has, in fact, spearheaded student organizing around Palestine in recent years, with the University of Houston’s Student Government Association successfully passing a resolution to protect pro-Palestine students and activism on campus — including the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as passing a resolution demanding the university divest from militarism. 

In recent months, major cities, including Dallas, Austin, Houston, El Paso and San Antonio have hosted consecutive marches since Israel’s bombardment of Gaza began (again) in October. Each rally called for Governor Abbott’s endorsement of a ceasefire.  

Organizers such as Mohamad have drawn comparisons between the treatment of immigrants at the Southern border of Texas and the treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza. Mohamad remarked, “How sad yet fitting it is to have the man who ordered child/parent separation and installed barbed wire floats in the Rio Grande visit the state of Israel — when it comes to draconian and illegal policies they [Texas and Israel] have much in common.” 

About The Author: 

Anna Rajagopal is a South Asian Jewish organizer and writer based in Houston, Texas. Anna's work focuses on the geographies of colonized identity under and in resistance to empire.

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