TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Protesters gathered outside the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on Saturday (Nov. 18) to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war that has so far claimed at least 11,500 lives.
Amid a heavy police presence, around 250 protesters marched to a cordon erected about 85 meters from the entrance to the AIT building, where they called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Protesters also called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel, which organizers said is enabling the war.
Protesters highlighted the high number of children killed in the conflict, chanting “let children grow up,” and “stop killing children.” The United Nations said that Gazan officials’ estimates that 5,000 children have been killed in the conflict are credible.
Protests against the Israeli government’s action in Gaza have taken place throughout the world since the beginning of the conflict. A protest in London on Monday attracted about 300,000 people, per AP.
The protest at times took a strong anti-U.S. tone, with some speakers condemning U.S. foreign policy and labeling the country’s leaders terrorists. Parallel Government was one of three groups that organized the event, and spokesperson Wu Yung-ih (吳永毅) told Taiwan News that it was organized in line with other protests against the war from around the world.
Wu said that Israel’s biggest backer is the U.S., and that is why the protest was held outside AIT. Wu said the group also opposes weapons sales from the U.S. to Taiwan, and that this is its long-standing position.
Protestors chant slogans outside AIT on Saturday. (Taiwan News, Jono Thomson photo)
Most Taiwan News spoke to at the protest were unaware of the organizers’ political positions, and said they were only there to support the main call of an immediate ceasefire. Islam Taiwan founder Abdullah Cheng (鄭平) said that despite the diverse views of attendees, all came to use their voice in support of Palestine.
“The organizers (of the protest) are not Muslim, but different political parties, with different ideologies,” Cheng said. “To be honest, the Muslims in attendance probably have a lot of differences with these groups, but today we are here just for one purpose: to support the Palestinians and condemn the violence by the Israeli government, and the support of the U.S. government to the Israeli government,” he said.
“That is the main reason why the march is at AIT today,” Cheng said.
Taiwan News spoke to about a dozen protesters about their motivations for joining the march, and none said they were attending because of the groups that organized it. Commonly, protesters said they were motivated by humanitarian interests, and that they felt the U.S. had the most agency to change the situation.
Children attend the march on Saturday. (Taiwan News, Jono Thomson photo)
Police that Taiwan News spoke to said about 200 officers were deployed to monitor the event, and attributed the heavy police presence to the protest’s proximity to AIT. One protester who became upset at how far away the protest was from AIT was quickly talked down by organizers, and there were no other signs of unrest.
One man wore a T-shirt with the words “condemn Hamas” on it, and engaged protesters in discussions about releasing hostages. Disagreements between protesters and the man sometimes became heated, but the protest remained peaceful.
Organizers gathered toys and flowers to represent the death of children in the conflict. They said after the event is over and crowds disperse, the items will be placed at the entrance of AIT.
Wu Yung-ih, spokesperson for the event's co-organizer Parallel Government, addresses crowds at the beginning of the march on Saturday. (Taiwan News, Jono Thomson photo)
A protester holds a sign calling for an "end to Israeli apartheid" is pictured with AIT in the background. (Taiwan News, Jono Thomson photo)
Protesters prepare to march to AIT on Saturday. (Taiwan News, Jono Thomson photo)