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Des Moines protesters demand Gaza ceasefire, aid for Palestinians

Gathering outside the Neal Smith Federal Building on Thursday afternoon, approximately 100 individuals joined forces, urging state and national government officials to advocate for a lasting ceasefire in Gaza. Organized by the Catholic Peace Ministry and the local Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) chapter, this demonstration in downtown Des Moines coincides with a wave of pro-Palestinian protests sweeping through college campuses nationwide, including two major public institutions in Iowa.

Last week, residents joined students on the Iowa State University campus in calling on the institution to sever ties with Collins Aerospace, an Iowa-based weapons manufacturer supplying arms to Israel. A similar three-day demonstration conveying analogous messages also took place at the University of Iowa.

During Thursday’s protest, participants demanded officials refrain from approving military aid to Israel and instead prioritize humanitarian relief aid for Palestinians, who they argue are disproportionately affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict. Holding up signs with messages like “stop the genocide” and “complicity is murder,” they directly addressed U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, shouting, “How many kids did you kill today?”

According to the United Nations, out of the 34,151 Palestinians killed in Gaza, 14,685 are children and 9,670 are women. Another 77,084 have been injured, with more than 7,000 believed to be trapped under rubble.

Des Moines Register reporters observed several law enforcement agents, including two Des Moines police officers, stationed outside the building near rally attendees. Inside the federal building on 210 Walnut St., a group of about 10 to 15 protesters presented their demands to congressional staff along with a list of names of Palestinian children killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Luke Clausen, representing the Catholic Peace Ministry (CPM), reported that despite speaking with representatives from Grassley and Ernst’s offices, they still felt unheard. Clausen argued that any opposition to aiding “the people who need it the most” is simply “cruel.”

The group split, with some occupying the senators’ offices upstairs while others remained downstairs. Clausen disclosed that he and others were detained by federal officers and issued citations for disturbing the peace. Officers warned against re-entering the building, citing potential arrest for trespassing.

Kathleen McQuillen, another CPM member, informed that they refused to leave until the senators called for a ceasefire. Moments of silence were interspersed with songs and chants to honor the children killed in Israeli attacks, while passing drivers honked in solidarity.

Last month, President Joe Biden signed a $95 billion foreign aid package, allocating nearly 41% to support Israel, including restocking missile defense systems and providing humanitarian relief for Gaza. Biden halted the shipment of 3,500 bombs to Israel amid concerns of their use in a potential military operation in Rafah, home to over a million refugees.

Protester Samantha Carey, holding a list of names of deceased youths, voiced support for grieving families and orphaned children in Gaza. She emphasized the importance of the cause to humanity.


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