'Freedom for Palestine' protest draws out hundreds in northeast Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Protestors in Fresno are calling for peace in the Middle East amid stalled diplomatic efforts that continue to fuel the fire between Israeli defense forces and Gaza militants.

According to Gaza health officials, 217 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. On the Israeli side, 12 people have been killed by Hamas rockets, all but one of them civilians.

Thousands of miles away in the Central Valley, hundreds of people are protesting for peace.

"So many people are here to support from all around for something that's so far away," said protest organizer Zena Chafi. "It's just very heartwarming."

Hundreds flooded the sidewalks on four corners of the Nees and Blackstone Ave. intersection near River Park to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.

"People are being dispersed everywhere," said Chafi. "They have nowhere to go. It's a human rights cause."

For hours, people lined the street with signs while chanting and waving flags.

"A huge percentage of the people that are here right now are either from Palestine, or they are maybe first-generation Americans from Palestine," said Reza Nekumanesh with the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno.

For Faisal Aboelrish, it was important to make sure his voice was heard after a similar demonstration Saturday night took an unexpected turn. Police say Aboelrish and two men he was with were pepper-sprayed while participating in the protest.

RELATED: Man now facing charges after pepper spray incident in north Fresno

"People care about Palestine. If others don't, we do because it's our country you know," he said. "We are trying to keep it safe and peaceful."

Fresno Police kept a watchful eye on the demonstration that had a few tense moments, including a small fire set in the street, but not troubling enough to intervene.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.