Nancy Braus, a longtime activist who contributes often to these pages, and Steve Wangh, a retired New York University professor and playwright, contributed these words. Filmmaker Robbie Leppner of Shaftsbury, who is working on a feature-length documentary about the Bread and Puppet Theater, captured the images used here.
On Nov. 19, a passionate group of about 200 people came together to declare support for a ceasefire in the latest and most lethal fighting in Israel and Palestine.
The group was unified in the message that we strongly oppose collective punishment of Palestinian civilians, most of whom have nothing to do with Hamas and some of whom oppose Hamas.
Starting from the Brattleboro Food Co-op walkway, we chanted and sang our way up Main Street. The demonstrators carried signs in support of an immediate ceasefire and expressed their dismay that that these innocent Gazans have been subjected to widespread bombing and have been deprived of water, electricity, and communication with the outside world.
They proclaimed these actions war crimes - and demanded that the United States government stop funding the weapons for this cruelty with our tax dollars.
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The march was organized by an ad hoc group of local activists, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Kate Casa of Brattleboro, who has many connections with Palestinian people - including some who have been slain in the most recent attacks - led the organizing effort. One of the groups supporting this action was Jewish Voice for Peace, which had sponsored demonstrations for justice in Israel/Palestine all across the country.
At the Common, Alex Fischer of Brattleboro spoke eloquently about the Jewish Voice for Peace involvement in the opposition to Israeli oppression of Palestinians, Tim Stevenson of Post Oil Solutions spoke about the importance of what grassroots organizers are doing, and the Bread and Puppet Theater performed. The group then walked peacefully back down Main Street for the conclusion of the event.
At one point, a few pro-Israel counterprotesters yelled hostile words, and there was a bit of back-and-forth, but the marchers kept chanting words of peace and solidarity with the innocent people who have been caught up in the hostilities. The large majority of the crowd on the streets and in the stores was supportive of the marchers' demand for a cease-fire.
Vermont's U.S. representative, Becca Balint, has responded to the call from Vermonters for a stop to the fighting by publishing a statement in support of an immediate cease-fire. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has issued a powerful statement demanding conditions on the billions of dollars of aid we send to Israel annually. Senator Peter Welch waited until Nov. 28 to support an "indefinite" cease-fire.
Organizers said that unless the situation on the ground improves a lot, this won't be the last protest Brattleboro will witness demanding peace and a two-state solution, and they urged all Vermonters to contact our congressional delegation to let them know that we oppose the unquestioned funding of Israel with American dollars.
This Voices Dispatch was submitted to The Commons.