Reem Salem, an 18-year-old San Francisco resident and Palestinian-American, was an active participant in the demonstration. He spoke to the crowd with words of resistance. "We will stop the racism and apartheid state of Israel, we will not stop," Salem said. "And we will continue to come out and have our voices heard."
Another protester at the demonstration, a San Jose resident named Mozi, said he became very sad seeing the images broadcast on television from Gaza. He said the images of "small children being killed and families being shattered, mothers crying over the dead bodies of kids," were difficult for him to see. Mozi said he marched from the Ferry Building with the group and found the protest to be very peaceful, with no pro-Israel activists showing up.
Rema Sider, 26, a Palestinian-American residing in San Francisco, said she was moved to join the protest because the recent killing of civilians in Palestine had brought tears to her eyes. Sider said she found out about the demonstration through friends and through Facebook.
The Jewish Community Relations Council, which represents synagogues and Jewish organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, released a remark on July 9 stating that it supports "Israel's right as a sovereign country to defend itself from relentless rocket fire, as well as its efforts to prevent further escalation and minimize casualties on both sides."
Frank Lara, 30, an organizer with ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), attended the rally at City Hall. He said, "Now more than ever it's important to highlight the genocidal campaign against Palestine, and Gaza in particular." It's important, he said, that the public knows "just the amount of violence and the truth behind the killings being carried out by Israel." Lara also said he wants to see the United States "completely stop the aid to Israel and push for boycotts, and push for the prosecution of Israeli war crimes."
President Barack Obama on Monday reaffirmed his belief that Israel has the right to defend itself against rockets being launched by Hamas into Israel. Yet he contended that Israel's military action in Gaza had already done "significant damage" to the Hamas terrorist infrastructure and said he doesn't want to see more civilians getting killed.
"We have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives," Obama said. "And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a ceasefire that ends the fighting and can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel."
Another demonstration against the military action of Israel is planned for this Saturday at 1 p.m. at San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza near the Ferry Building, according to organizers.
Meanwhile, the South Bay Islamic Association is taking a different tack, holding interfaith gatherings around Ramadan, the monthlong daytime fast, for more than a decade. The association says the meetings are more important than ever as tensions in Gaza escalate.
KQED's Sara Hossaini visited a gathering over the weekend. She reports the open houses began after Sept. 11 as a way to invite non-Muslims to understand Ramadan. SBIA President Shan Saigal said sharing an evening meal can really help. "Just breaking bread, that way you can break the ice and then you can talk and sit down as meaningful friends and associates," Saigal said.
One guest asked the imam if people are observing Ramadan in war-torn areas. The imam said while there are exceptions, many in those countries are still trying to observe the fast.
Guest Katharine Hauland found the evening an opportunity to reflect. "Somebody mentioned Gaza and Syria," she said. "Especially times like now, it's more important to have a better understanding of who everybody is as people and see them that way."