Chicago police at downtown Millennium Park today arrested an activist who was exercising his free speech rights during a protest organized by the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago. At the Chicago Sister Cities’ annual International Festival, more than 30 activists protested Israel’s inclusion in the program and called for the cutting of Chicago ties with Israeli apartheid.
The activist was arrested while the protest was concluding outside of the International Festival tent. The protesters were on their way out when the police began shoving the activists and grabbed the young Arab male protester and placed him under arrest (he remains in detention at the time of this release).
Minutes earlier, after picketing and chanting outside of the tent, activists brought the message into the venue. Protesters chanted in the tent for a few minutes to make the message clear: “Drop Petach Tikva!”, Chicago’s sister city in Israel. The pianist who was performing in the hall at the time stood at attention out of respect once he heard the protesters’ message.
The PSG and allies were compelled to bring the message directly into the festival because for the last year and a half, the Chicago Sister Cities International has refused to meet with PSG and members of the community to hear about Petach Tikva’s special role in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.
Petach Tikva — an officially segregated city, the first Jewish-only settlement in historic Palestine and the site of the primary detention center where Israeli forces abuse and torture Palestinian political prisoners — has been dubbed by rights group Amnesty International as “Israel’s Guantanamo.”
Upholding the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions measures on apartheid Israel, PSG and its allies object to business-as-usual with Israel. Under the false premise of promoting culture and education, Petach Tikva’s inclusion in Chicago Sister Cities promotes Israel-US business ties while it whitewashes Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses.
Anel Montes, a manager with the Chicago Sister Cities, reiterated the program’s refusal to take a principled stance or meet with activists, using the false language of “neutrality.” However, Chicago Sister Cities has made its stance clear by maintaining its relationship with Petach Tikva, whose committee members belong to organizations that have played a role in the dispossession of the Palestinian people and are committed to promoting US aid to apartheid Israel.
PSG and allies can claim a victory. Petach Tikva was not visible at today’s festival as war-profiteering corporations Motorola and Boeing — the main sponsors of the Chicago Sister Cities International — don’t want protesters raining on their public relations parade. PSG and its allies will keep up the pressure until Chicago Sister Cities drops Israel’s Guantanamo.
Call in this week to protest Chicago’s business-as-usual with Israel and demand that Petach Tikva be dropped from the Chicago Sister Cities International Program! Contact Leroy Allala – Sister City Program Executive Director (leroy.allala[at]cityofchicago.org, 312.744.8074) and demand an end to the Sister City partnership between Chicago and Petach Tikva!