Southwest Coalition for Palestine leads demonstration outside UNM bookstore

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A coalition of local groups held a demonstration for Palestinian rights outside of the UNM Bookstore Friday afternoon.

Organizers say it was meant to address the growing number of innocent Palestinians killed in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Palestinian officials estimate nearly 1,900 people have been killed in Gaza – including nearly 800 women and children – in the past week.

Organizers say Friday’s rally was a cry to U.S. leaders to negotiate some type of ceasefire, or find ways to help civilians escape the bloodshed.

“We’re here to try to get the message across that we are a peaceful people, and we just want to live in freedom and have the same rights as everybody else,” said Amjad Awwad, who was at the demonstration.

The Southwest Coalition for Palestine organized the protest. They say it was an effort to make sure their voices are not lost during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and believe many New Mexicans may be sympathetic to their cause.

“I think here in New Mexico, particularly Indigenous people here in New Mexico, know very well what colonization and the displacement off of one’s land looks like, and there’s an incredible amount of solidarity,” said Dr. Fatima van Hattum with the Southwest Coalition for Palestine.

U.S. government officials say America will stand firmly by Israel. President Joe Biden has called for Israeli leaders to have a “proportionate response” to Hamas.

“Let’s not lose sight of why this is happening,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “Israel is conducting operations in Gaza because Hamas carried out terrorist attacks.”

While Friday’s demonstration was peaceful, it was clear tensions are high.

At one point, a group of protesters got into some type of altercation with a man waving an Israeli flag. No one was injured, and organizers urged protesters to return to the rally.

Regardless, Albuquerque police say their officers are on high alert right now. APD says there have been no direct threats in the city, but they are staying vigilant.