As Greater Boston celebrated the 53rd anniversary of Israel’s “Independence Day” in the town of Brookline, Massachusetts, a group of activists set up a counterdemonstration to protest the illegal occupation of Palestine. The group comprised a makeshift coalition of religious, unionist, socialist, human rights, and different ethnic and national groups.
While the Jewish and pro-Israeli community celebrated with music, singing, dancing, food, flags, and balloons, members of the counterdemonstration endured a barrage of hostilities, ranging from offensive hand gestures to vulgar language. Though police officers were ostensibly on guard to maintain order, they did nothing to prevent the demonstrators from being harassed. More than once, passersby approached the demonstrators and spit on them directly, only to be ignored by the officers on duty. To add insult to injury, a police detective was one the scene, filming the demonstration with a digital camera, apparently to take record of any trouble-making individuals. Not surprisingly, the detective wasn’t paying any attention to those who were openly harassing the demonstrators.
However, the peak of the hostilities involved a particularly angry Zionist, who insisted on provoking a confrontation. Time and again, the boisterous man entered the pro-Palestinian demonstration and began obnoxiously shouting, “ISRAEL! ISRAEL! ISRAEL!” only to have his voice drowned out by members of the demonstration and told to leave by the police. Finally, he physically harassed the leader of the demonstration, Amer Jubran, by pushing back the latter aggressively with his chest.
The man then left the crowd to speak with the police officers, pointing towards Amer and gesticulating violently. The police officers then approached Amer and began a hostile line of questioning, upon which they proceeded to arrest him. Gabriel Camacho and Steve Kirschbaum, members of Al-Awda Massachusetts and the International Action Center (IAC) respectively, attempted to inquire as to why an arrest was being made. One police officer answered, “You don’t need to know anything”.
Steve Picariello, of the IAC in Boston, personally witnessed the event. “Amer did nothing. He ignored the guy who harassed him and Amer got arrested instead”. Amer was then hauled away to the Brookline Police Station.
Following the arrest, the officers began intimidating the demonstrators, ordering them to move about, until the demonstration largely disbanded. All the while, hostile passersby continued with verbal harassments, which the police officers ignored completely. When asked about the legality of spitting on other human beings, one of the officers replied, “This is America. This is a democracy. Just turn the other cheek.”
Holly Khader, of Al-Awda Connecticut was told, “This is their culture. They can spit. They can give you the finger. Just ignore it.”
Another officer responded, “They have the right to do whatever they want”. And whatever they wanted, they did. As the celebrations continued, belligerent passersby harassed every last activist until the demonstration was dissolved.
Note: Amer Jubran is a Palestinian from the West Bank. He is being arraigned in court on spurious charges, which include assault with a deadly weapon. Both the charges and the treatment he has received in the hands of the Brookline police are entirely unjustified. He needs your support. For more information, please contact: