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'The Time Is Now': Interfaith Protesters Fill Philly Train Station Demanding Cease-Fire

Protestors at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, Thursday November 2 -- image via a screenshot on X

By Olivia Rosane, Common Dreams

In what organizers say is the largest interfaith act of civil disobedience since Israel's bombardment of Gaza began, 500 faith leaders and supporters filled Philadelphia's 30th Street Station Thursday evening to call on U.S. officials to support a cease-fire now.

More than 350 protesters, including dozens of spiritual leaders, were arrested after blocking the entrances to train platforms and refusing to leave, Jewish Voice for Peace said in a statement.

"We are part of a growing powerful movement of Jews, of Americans, of Israelis, calling for a cease-fire," Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari of Kol Tzedek Synagogue told WPVI. "[We are] demanding that the U.S. government, President [Joe] Biden, and the Congress use its power and its privilege and its money to insist that Israel has a cease-fire with Gaza and save the innocent civilian lives."

The 30th Street Station protest—which was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace-Philadelphia, the Philly Palestine Coalition, and IfNotNow Philadelphia—follows several high-profile civil disobedience actions calling for a cease-fire in the past few weeks, including sit-ins in the U.S. Capitol building and New York's Grand Central Station during which hundreds of Jewish activists and allies were arrested. In Philadelphia, interfaith crowds gathered outside Sen. John Fetterman's (D-Pa.) office twice last month demanding he back a cease-fire.

The actions come as the humanitarian situation in Gaza grows ever more dire, with 9,227 killed and 23,516 injured in the Israeli air and ground offensive, a health ministry spokesperson said Friday, as Anadolu Agency reported. More than 1,538 Israelis have also been killed, mostly in Hamas' October 7 attack. A group of United Nations special rapporteurs warned on Thursday that the people of Gaza were "at grave risk of genocide."

"Since October 7, thousands of Palestinians and Israelis, including thousands of children, have been killed. We will not stop disrupting business as usual until Biden heads the moral call and demands a cease-fire in the region," Fornari said in a statement. "The time is now!"

A group of faith leaders including rabbis, imams, pastors, reverends, clerics, and Buddhist monks led chants and songs inside the 30th Street Station Thursday as more than a thousand gathered outside to show support, singing along with a marching band. Participants chanted "We who believe in freedom cannot rest," "Let Gaza Live!" and "Everyone for everyone," referring to the demand from the families of the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas on October 7 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agree to exchange them for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

"As a Philadelphia area Muslim, I am proud to stand with fellow Philadelphians of all faiths and backgrounds today to demand a cease-fire and an end to the genocide of Palestinians," Ahmet Tekelioglu, Council on American-Islamic Relations Philadelphia executive director, said in a statement.

"Families across the country struggle to pay for healthcare or food, and our public schools and streets are crumbling: Our government must stop funding the Israeli military's genocide and war and focus on taking care of our communities—from Gaza to Philadelphia," Tekelioglu, who engaged in civil disobedience with 12 Pennsylvania imams, continued.

Hours into the protest, at around 7:00 pm ET, 350 faith leaders and activists moved to block train entrances, Jewish Voice for Peace and WPVI said. After 30 minutes, Amtrak and Philadelphia police arrested them when they refused to move. Police told WPVI that the protesters would be let go after being handed a civil code violation.

"People are willing to go to jail," Philadelphia resident Jeff Orgower told WPVI. "People are willing to shut down business as we know it in order to make sure the U.S. government, that President Biden and Congress, does not give aid to Israel."

Olivia Rosane is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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