Protesters at the Colorado Capitol on Thursday demanded Israel stop its invasion of Gaza

The demonstrators were united on two messages: Politicians should demand a ceasefire and the United States should quit aiding Israel.
5 min. read
A protest in solidarity with the people of Palestine on the Colorado State Capitol steps. Nov. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Several hundred people converged outside the Colorado Capitol to demand Israel end its invasion of Gaza and for the United States to quit funding the State of Israel.

The demonstration came just over a month after Hamas attacked Israel and killed more than 1,400 Israelis, including more than 250 people attending a music festival and many civilians living in their homes near the Gaza border.

In the weeks since, Israel has invaded Gaza and killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,000 children, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, NPR reported.

Over the past few weeks, demonstrators have rallied at the Capitol in solidarity with both Israel and Palestinians, joining others around the world calling for a ceasefire.

On Thursday, protesters had a range of attitudes toward Israel, from those who argued a Jewish state has no place in the Middle East and that Israel should be abolished to those who advocated for an end to Israel's military attack on civilians in Gaza. Some said they simply wanted a ceasefire, peace and a political resolution.

Students wave flags on the Colorado State Capitol steps as protesters try to enter the building, during an action in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Nov. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

On Thursday, the crowd held signs demanding: "Free Palestine," "Ceasefire Now" and "End U.S. Aid to Israel," some offering pointed messages to Colorado's Democratic politicians.

"Jared Polis: The people demand housing solutions, not apartheid funds," stated one sign.

"DeGette Sold Out to Apartheid for $82,825," stated another.

Other politicians were criticized for not calling for a ceasefire, too: Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, along with Representatives Jason Crow and Brittany Pettersen.

"Shame," the crowd shouted.

A protest in solidarity with the people of Palestine on the Colorado State Capitol steps. Nov. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

"Israel continues to indiscriminately rain down bombs -- U.S.-funded bombs -- on Palestinian civilians," Katie Leonard, of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, said to the crowd. "It is clear as day that these politicians value money and private interests over the sanctity of human life."

The politicians named by protesters have not responded to immediate requests for comment, and we will update this story if they do.

Nadeen Ibrahim of the Colorado Palestine Coalition argued Israel's government wants to take over the land in Gaza and to do so, she says the government is committing genocide against the Palestinian people.

Nadeen Ibrahim leads chants during protest in solidarity with the people of Palestine – her people – at the Colorado State Capitol. Nov. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

"They're using that very simple excuse of self defense that these people in this building continue to support and stand by," she said, pointing to the Capitol.

Alex Borenstein, of Jewish Voice for Peace, told the crowd: "All elected officials continue to demonstrate their loyalty to Zionism, to imperialism, to colonialism, to capitalism, and apartheid. And we're here today to shame them for that. We refuse to let our tax dollars be used to finance death and the suffering of the Palestinian people."

Abdullah Elagha of the Colorado Palestine Coalition called for Gov. Jared Polis to cancel his appearance at the Jewish National Fund's Global Conference for Israel, scheduled to take place in Denver from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3. He called for the event to be canceled.

Abdallah Elagha speaks during a protest in solidarity with the people of Palestine on the Colorado State Capitol steps. Nov. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Protesters planned to enter the Capitol and shut it down, but security had taken care of that before they arrived.

Lawmakers were sent an email notifying them that the statehouse would be closed early. The reason was not stated.

The demonstrators took credit for it.

"We just shut a government building down," said Leonard.

At 3 p.m., the same time the protest was scheduled to begin, security locked the doors, said State Rep. Said D.M. Sharbini of Thornton.

A protest in solidarity with the people of Palestine on the Colorado State Capitol steps. Nov. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

He could not confirm whether the lockdown was related to the demonstration.

"This is the people's building," he said. "They should be able to go inside if they want. As far as I've seen before, this building has been open pretty much every hour of every day."

Sharbini, who is Palestinian and has family in Nazareth, said he has been working to convene Jewish and Palestinian lawmakers at the Capitol to join forces to advocate for a shared value of "peace."

"My dad was born and raised there," he said. "His parents, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, all of them are still there. We worry about them every day."

So far, his family has been out of harm's way.

"But there are countless people that are [in harm's way]," he said. "Ten-thousand dead, 4,000 children: That's unacceptable. And so that's why we're out here today. That's why I'm out here today. I'm here to show them that I stand with them, and I want to make sure they know that we hear them and we're here pushing for them."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the organization Katie Leonard is associated with. She's a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. 

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