“We accuse you of genocide”: Protesters gather in downtown Boise call for a cease fire in Gaza

Photo by Kiryn Willett

On the corner of South 8th St. and West Front St., a group of roughly 20 Boise residents chanted, “Biden Biden you cannot hide, we accuse you of genocide,” while waving signs in support of Palestine and a cease-fire in Gaza at 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 23, 2023.

The Idaho chapter of the Party For Socialism and Liberation (PSL) organized a protest in partnership with the Shutdown for Palestine Coalition, along with the Palestinian Youth movement, National Students for Justice in Palestine and other Palestinian organizations, according to PSL organizer Morrighan Nyx. 

The protestors had various chants in support of Palestine, including, “From the rivers to the sea Palestine will be free.”

Israel and Palestine have a long, conflict ridden history, and the most recent wave of violence was ignited by a Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7, 2023. Since Oct. 7, Israel has retaliated with a bombing campaign that has left nearly 80 percent of the population internally displaced and 20,000 people dead according to the United Nations. Israel has bombed hospitals and the homes of journalists, as well as killed Gazans fleeing through the evacuation corridors.The Human Rights Watch is now calling for Israel to be investigated for war crimes. 

The U.S. provides $3.8 billion a year in military assistance to Israel. This, along with Biden’s previous support of Israel and the U.S veto of a ceasefire in Gaza,  is the reason for the protestors accusations of supporting genocide. While experts still do not agree on whether the Israel-Palenstine conflict is genocide, the U.N. has warned against an increasing risk of genocide in Palestine as the violence escalates and Israeli officials use genocidal language, such as “finish them all”.

Biden isn’t the only politician to come under fire for supporting Israel, as Idaho’s U.S. Senator James [Jim] Risch replaced Biden’s name in the chant, changing the line to “James Risch you cannot hide, we accuse you of genocide”. 

Risch has previously given enthusiastic support for Israel and introduced the Support For Israel Resolution. The protestors aim to pressure legislator’s to condemn Israel’s action and stop any U.S. funding for the Israeli military. 

“The biggest weapon that people have to make change is in numbers,” said PSL organizer Morrighan Nyx. “And it’s by demonstrating we’re able to show … that these actions and these policies are unpopular and put pressure to show that it’s a genuine risk to their political careers.”

In addition to the demand for a ceasefire, the protestors hope to keep the issue in the public’s mind, rallying to the cry of “no shopping while bombs are dropping.” The protestors are asking people to not go about business as usual while Gaza suffers. Protestor and Boise local Kim Oleander, asks people to not be numb to the conflict. . 

“Just because it’s not happening next door doesn’t mean it’s not real,” Oleander said. “We have people who have family in Palestine or don’t know where they are. This isn’t just something that’s on the other side of the world. It is local, it is here, and we act like we’re such an amazing loving state that welcomes refugees, until the refugees have a skin color we don’t like. This is wrong”.

At the start of the protest, two uniformed Boise police officers approached Nyx and warned her against using a megaphone to lead the various chants the group had. After the warning, the officers left the immediate vicinity of the protest, but stayed with eye sight of the protest before returned with two additional uniformed officers and issued a citation. The officers cited violation of city ordinance 5-7-3, using an amplification device that can be heard from 100 feet away. 

“That shocked me because this is like the smallest group I’ve seen and we had four officers. So that was laughable to me,” Oleander said.

The PSL has held an estimated 15 protests and other community activities in support of Palestine since Oct. 7. Oleander has attended multiple protests, including a protest at Kleiner Park the previous week organized by Boise To Palestine, which according to Oleander, drew a bigger crowd that marched through busier areas.

Nyx stated she believed the Boise police department was being “discriminatory” and using the city ordinance to shut down any form of speech that they do not like, such as instances where the Boise police department has threatened citations at Black Lives Matter, abortion rights, and pro-Palestine protests. According to Nyx, she has been threatened with citations around eight times since October during various protests. 

When asked, these Boise police officers insisted that they are not targeting any specific protestors, and that their presence is to keep the peace and ensure compliance with city ordinances. 

After the citation was issued, Nyx and other protests began shouting louder.

“I bet they can hear us even farther down now,” Nyx called at the officers after receiving the citation. 

The protestors began chanting “BPD, KKK, IDF, they’re all the same,” and one organizer described the interaction as “undemocratic”. 

The officers then left the protest, but at least one officer remained within eyesight of the protest until its conclusion. 

According to protestor and local tattoo artist Kam Kelly, Boise has been experiencing the division in its own way. After posting on social media in support of Palestine, Kelly began to lose followers.

“I, myself have lost a fair amount of community engagement and friends because of the topic,” Kelly said. “I think that there’s just a lot of passiveness. We’re really really comfortable here in Boise, and people don’t want to be disturbed from their daily lives.”

According to Kelly, Boise is more receptive to the protests than the surrounding areas. Kelly has attended protests at The Village at Meridian, and experienced more drive-by harassment and “hateful things” from people walking down the street. 

During the protest on Dec. 23, one man stopped to shout “Go Israel!” at the gathered protestors. 

For Paryz Renteria, a Boise native, who has attended five protests in support of a ceasefire, this is a common experience. 

“This last one, there was a woman hanging out her window screaming at us, and another guy parked his truck where we were and just kept staring at us and wouldn’t leave and blocked traffic,” Renteria said. “Our local communities seem very divided when they shouldn’t be.”

Renetria stated the U.S.’s response to violence in Gaza made her feel “ashamed to be an American”. 

Rentria also accused mainstream and local media of worsening the division through biased reporting and lack of adequate coverage.

“I was watching a lot of our news and stuff like that, but I mean, some of the first protests that I went to weren’t even covered by our local news,” Renetria said. 

Renetria wasn’t the only one who felt both local media and mainstream media had not spent enough time and space covering the issue, with Oleander shaming Boise news for its lack of consistent coverage on protests in support of the cease fire. 

“They [Mainstream media] completely change the narrative,” Renetria said. 

They aren’t alone in their criticism of mainstream media. 750 journalists published an open letter accusing newsrooms of “using dehumanizing rhetoric” to “justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians”.

“We’re being gaslit on such an insane level as human beings,” Oleander said.  “We’re seeing war and genocide and war crimes and then we’re being told no, but it’s okay … all of us are kind of in a constant state of shock.” 

For Oleander, coming out to the protests makes them feel more assured in their beliefs, and encourages her to keep fighting for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

“We don’t have the right to say I didn’t know what was going on. I had no idea what happened. The proof is everywhere,” Oleander said.

The protesters are calling for people to continue advocating for a ceasefire and Gaza by showing up for protests and being vocal about condemning Israel’s bombings. Renetria encouraged people to call and write letters to their representatives to keep the pressure on.

“I came to today’s protest because I care about humanity and people. I think all people matter,” Oleander said. “I just want Idaho to wake up. Just because you can’t hear the screams doesn’t mean they’re not there.”

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