Balloon Release Honors Gaza’s Children Lost in Operation Cast Lead
On the third anniversary of Gaza Invasion, Chicago and Nabi Saleh Honor Gaza's Children with Mass Balloon Release
CHICAGO, IL (December 31, 2011) -- Over two hundred people gathered to honor Gaza's children with a mass release of balloons marking the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Israel's brutal military invasion of Gaza. After marching from Millennium Park to Grant Park, participants released one balloon for each of the 344 children killed during the 22-day attack on Gaza from December 27, 2008 -- January 18, 2009. In a parallel event, families in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh also gathered for a balloon release. In response, the Israeli army fired tear gas and mustard gas at those who participated in the action, including children, and arrested at least seven .
The Chicago event was organized by Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights (CMPR)."We organized this event to express our grief over deaths of these children and celebrate the resilience of the people of Gaza," said CMPR member Ishan Chakrabarti. Tied to each balloon was a card with the name and age of each child killed in the Gaza Massacre. The balloons and ribbon were 100% biodegradable and the cards were made from Lotka paper embedded with flowerseeds. "Wherever they land, these cards will plant seeds in the ground that will bloom into beautiful flowers to pay tribute to the memory of each child," said Chakrabarti.
At the event local community members performed selections from "The Gaza Monologues," a collection of monologues written by Palestinian children who survived Israel's assault. Immediately before releasing the balloons, participants also observed a moment of silence.
Prior to the Chicago commemoration, the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh gathered for a parallel balloon release. The Israeli army responded to the balloon release by firing tear gas and mustard gas at participants, including children. They arrested at least seven, including two internationals. Palestinian activist Amra Amra said that during the event, "Five year old Samer asked his mom if he would be a martyr like Mustafa Tamimi." On December 9, 2011, Mustafa Tamimi was murdered when the Israeli army shot a tear gas canister at his face. Tamimi became the first person to die while participating in Nabi Saleh's weekly nonviolent demonstrations against Israeli annexation of their land. During these demonstrations, the Israeli often uses tear gas, mustard gas, skunk spray, and violent arrests against the participants. Of Samer's question, Amra said, "These are not normal questions children ask their parents! Yet it is normal questions for children living under occupation."
Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights CMPR is a diverse, youth-led movement advocating for Palestinian human rights, civil rights and equality through citywide educational events, grassroots campaigns and creative, direct action. Many CMPR members are involved in other Chicagoland Palestinian solidarity organizations, including several chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine.