Thousands of pro-Palestine protesters took to the streets of Austin on Sunday to call for a ceasefire amid the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Videos of the rally outside the Texas Capitol showed smoke flares and street closures. An estimated 10,000 people participated in the protest, with pictures showing some riding horses and waving Palestinian flags.
The event was organized by a coalition of Palestine and Muslim-focused groups, some of which posted statements last month praising Hamas’ terrorist attack.
“Last night, the resistance in Gaza led a heroic attack against the occupation and has taken over 30 hostages, including Brigadier General Nimrom Aloni,” the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), one of the rally organizers, posted on Facebook the day after the Hamas attacks.
“Their march toward liberation is as monumental as their rockets — the resistance will free the prisoners who have been facing a fascist attack by the occupation and liberate our land from the fangs of the enemy, the group added.
PYM has been linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.-designated terrorist group, according to The Hill. The PYM said their event on Sunday was a direct rebuke of Gov. Greg Abbott’s trip to Israel this month.
“We, the people of Texas, will March [sic] at the Texas Capitol to show support for the steadfast people of Gaza [and] urgently demand an immediate ceasefire, an end to Texas and U.S. aid to Israel, and an immediate end to U.S.-sponsored violence in Gaza,” the group posted.
One protester in Austin appeared to suggest Zionism was to blame for the conflict in Israel.
“I lost family in Gaza,” Layal Afana, a Dallas resident of Palestinian heritage, told the Austin American-Statesman. “Even if I wasn’t Palestinian, there isn’t any kind of excuse to turn a blind eye. There was peace between three different religions, living harmoniously, and a political movement changed it.”
Hamas launched a series of terrorist attacks last month in Israel that killed an estimated 1,200 people. Additionally, more than 200 people were kidnapped and taken to Gaza.
Israel has since launched military operations in Gaza that Palestinian officials claim have resulted in more than 11,000 deaths, per The Washington Post.
Protesters in Austin said the Sunday rally was a tremendous success.
“It’s incredible. I don’t think Austin has seen this big of a crowd. It’s just a testament of what the people want, and it is a testament for what Palestinians are going through, which is a pretty hard time right now,” protester Abdullah Alqaroot told Fox 7 Austin.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Texas chapter was one of the event organizers in Austin. U.S. intelligence determined CAIR leaders were linked to Hamas following the 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.
CAIR posted a statement on the day of Hamas’ terrorist attacks, “reaffirming [its] support for the Palestinian people’s right to freedom and calling for an end to the Israeli occupation.” No condemnation of Hamas was included in the statement.
Another organizer of the event, the Muslim American Society, emphasized its “unwavering support” for Palestine in a statement the same day as the Hamas attacks. It also did not condemn the terrorist group.
Dallas has hosted similar anti-Israel rallies each weekend since Hamas attacked Israel. The rallies were organized by the PYM and other groups that support Palestinians and desire for Texas and the U.S. government to stop aiding Israel, as reported by The Dallas Express.