Jewish Voice for Peace leads 24-hour vigil for Gaza in Loop during U.S. State of the Union

Friday, March 8, 2024
24-hour vigil for Gaza held downtown during U.S. State of the Union
A Chicago group began a 24-hour vigil to demand ceasefire for Gaza at Chicago's Federal Plaza in the Loop during to coincide with State of the Union.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago anti-war coalition gathered Thursday at Federal Plaza to hold a 24-hour vigil to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The vigil included about a dozen Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, multi-racial and teaching organizations. Dozens have gathered to participate.

The group started by reading the names of more than 30,000 Palestinians killed in the conflict.

"Thousands and thousands of people men, women, children are dying and it is also important to say these are real human beings," Ashley Bohrer of Jewish Voice for Peace said.

The vigil is meant to coincide with the president's State of the Union address Thursday night.

"I think the Muslim population, the Muslim community, especially in Chicago, has already spoken about how they feel about President Biden," said Kimi Mirza. "We've seen what he's done in the last five months and what he has not done in the last five months."

"The bare minimum is a ceasefire but we need so much more than a ceasefire. We need to end U.S. military aid to Israel so this can't continue," said Deborah Adelman with Jewish Voice for Peace.

While many Jewish organizations would like to see an end to the violence, officials with the Jewish United Fund say this is not the time or the way.

"The unilateral ceasefire with hostages in captivity, including Americans, and with Hamas in power just delays future additional even more bloody warfare," Jewish United Fund Executive Vice President Jay Tcath said. "Thankfully American public opinion remains solidly behind Israel's campaign against terror."

"It's deeply painful to have a group that is absolutely marginal and not representative of the mainstream Jewish community to have such a loud voice," said Jane Charney, JUF's assistant vice president for local government affairs. "There's only one entity that can end this war right away: it's Hamas."

Truce talks between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2006 have stalled as the war continues.

A Hamas official told ABC News two days of talks ended with no breakthrough.

In recent days, the U.S. has been pressuring Hamas to accept Israel's proposed deal that would implement a temporary ceasefire and reunite Israeli hostages with their families.

"We want Israel to live in peace and security alongside a Palestinian state to live in peace and security," Charney said.

But she said that must start with the release of hostages, along with U.S. support and aid to pave the way to a two state solution.

"We very strongly believe that President Biden's policy of supporting Israel and providing military aid to Israel has to continue because Israel is fighting an existential fight," she said.

The group in Federal Plaza said the timing of their demonstration is not coincidental; they're ready to rebut the State of the Union.

"We know that in that hour which he's going to talk. He is not going to stay anything substantive about what's going on so we want to deliver our own state of the union - it's a state of genocide," said Adelman.

In his speech the president announced an "emergency" military mission to build a port along the Gaza coast in order to deliver more humanitarian aid.

For the crowd in Federal Plaza, reading the names of thousands of Palestinians, who've been killed, it's not enough.

Demonstrators said they will deliver their alternate address at 9 p.m. The vigil will last through end 8 a.m. Friday morning.