The bombing, invasion, and occupation of Gaza have been going on for three months now, claiming a reported 23,000 lives or more, including roughly 10,000 children. The Israeli military has displaced the vast majority of the 2.3 million people who live in Gaza, and Israeli spokespersons are explicitly stating that they intend to continue the assault throughout 2024 and even into 2025. Some elements of Israeli society are openly calling for the complete ethnic cleansing of Gaza.
Determined to retain its chief foreign policy partner in the Mideast, the Biden administration continues to provide billions of dollars to the Israeli government, despite fears that the butchery in Gaza could cost Joe Biden the election by driving away younger voters who are not as accustomed to the dehumanization of Palestinians. Several well-known anti-Semites have established a tenuous common cause with Zionists on the shared platform of endorsing colonial violence.
The ongoing carnage in Gaza is calculated to have a demoralizing effect on those who wish to see an end to the decades of bloodletting in Palestine. Adding tens of thousands of new victims to the tally of the dead will not make Israelis safer; it can only escalate the violence throughout the region, further concentrating power in the hands of militaristic bigots and strongmen.
Undeterred, people across the United States have continued to take action in solidarity with Palestinians. Bold demonstrators have blockaded bridges, ports, arms manufacturing facilities, and other pressure points. The structures and models of these solidarity actions continue to evolve.
In Durham, North Carolina, which saw several protests against the bloodshed in Gaza throughout late 2023, the first explicitly autonomous and leaderless large-scale solidarity demonstration took place on January 4. As at previous demonstrations, hundreds of people gathered, took turns speaking, and marched through the city. This time, however, the march went to the jail, where participants shot fireworks at the building and projected “Free Palestine—Free prisoners” across its façade, connecting the struggle against ethnic cleansing in Palestine to the local struggle against police and prisons.
Two days later, in Seattle, demonstrators blockaded I-5 north and an on-ramp and overpass, backing up traffic for more than six miles. In the following anonymous report, participants in the blockade describe how they accomplished this.
For more background, consult the text we published by the Fayer Collective, a Jewish collective involved in ecological, abolitionist, and anti-fascist organizing, explaining why they believe solidarity with Palestinians is important and how to shift from demanding a ceasefire to taking direct action in order to impose one. We now offer it as a zine that you can print and distribute in your own community.
Palestinian Solidarity Action Shuts Down I-5 Freeway In Seattle for Hours
On Saturday, January 6, over 150 people occupied the northbound 1-5 freeway in Seattle, Washington between Olive Way and East Denny Way. The action resulted in a complete shutdown of I-5 north for over four hours. Hundreds more occupied the Olive Way I-5 overpass in solidarity with those on the freeway, shutting down the overpass for hours as well.
The purpose of the action was to stop business as usual and direct more public attention to Palestine. Israel has killed well over 22,000 Palestinians in the past three months, the majority of whom are women and children, yet the United States government continues to financially and politically support the genocide. As the crowds chanted on Saturday, “Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes!”
Among a variety of signs, one could read “Stop US-funded genocide,” “Free all Palestinian prisoners,” “Jews for a free Palestine,” and “Protect Gaza—ceasefire now.” The demands from the action included:
- Permanent ceasefire and an end to the siege of Gaza
- Stop all US aid to the Israeli government
- Free all Palestinian prisoners
- End the occupation of Palestine
- Land back
This direct action was well organized. Affinity groups made staggered arrivals to the meetup spot to stage before taking the freeway. Two rows of cars brought all five lanes of northbound traffic to a halt, then cars and a bike brigade blocked the Olive Way I-5 north on-ramp. Affinity groups then marched together down the on-ramp and onto I-5 to rally in front of the traffic.
Approximately fifteen people lined up with their arms in lock boxes and the rest of the group arranged themselves in rows facing them. Another hundred or more people occupied the on-ramp and the embankment between the ramp and the freeway.
There were identifiable organizers of this action, but they respected the autonomy of the participants. It was vocalized that organizers would not police others for taking their own actions, and that everyone was free to join or leave the action at any time according to the level of risk they were comfortable with.
The few angry drivers stuck in the blockade traffic who approached the group were successfully calmed by the action’s de-escalation team. Many of those stuck in the traffic actually joined the action by chanting and clapping along, even picking up Palestinian flags to wave. Southbound drivers and truckers on the other side of the median continuously expressed support for the blockade with honks, fists raised in solidarity, and peace signs. Two of those drivers even came to a complete stop, temporarily halting southbound traffic as well.
The action’s “care bears” distributed snacks, water, Gatorade, cough drops, hand warmers, tissues, and more. Trained medics stood by ready to care for anything from basic first aid needs to gunshot wounds.
People led powerful chants and songs, keeping the energy alive throughout the entire four hour shutdown. One of the most powerful chants of the day was “IDF, SPD, abolition is the key!” This linked the oppression of Palestinians to the oppression of Black, brown, and Indigenous people here in the United States. The chant affirmed that the movement for Palestinian liberation is part of the broader struggle for the liberation of all people. These words ground us in the reality that no one is free until we’re all free—until we create a world without domination, police, and, ultimately, the state itself
The indomitable, joyous energy climaxed at dusk when rain, hail, and thunder and lightning broke out. Instead of silencing the demonstrators, the stormy weather inspired the group to one last dance party, as they shouted out “Up, up with liberation! Down, down with occupation!” Around 4:30 pm, the entire group marched off the freeway together, back up the on-ramp, and merged with the crowd still occupying the Olive Way overpass. No arrests took place on the freeway throughout the time that it was shut down.
This action is part of a wave of strategic actions shutting down bridges, freeways, and other targets across the United States in order to demand a ceasefire in Gaza and Palestinian liberation. Locally, we’ve seen recent blockades at the Port of Tacoma and an Amazon fulfillment center in Lacey in solidarity with Palestinians. The fact that no arrests took place at those two actions or at Saturday’s action shows that actions involving a critical mass of people can be safer for the participants as well as more effective. People power is often our best strategy for confronting and fending off the state.
Many people do not understand how shutting down a bridge or a freeway could help Palestinians in Gaza. Yet our government is supporting the genocide of Palestinians, American corporations are profiting off of it, mainstream media and politicians are lying about it, and much of our society is indifferent or supportive of it as a result of those lies. In these conditions, shutting down a freeway is a needed means of centering the Palestinian struggle for survival. Disruptive public actions like this are also crucial for sustaining energy and activating new people to join the movement. They are an inevitable response to a government that continues to send countless tax dollars to a military force that is actively engaging in genocide. History shows that direct action is necessary in such situations.
We hope that Saturday’s successful shutdown of I-5 will serve as an inspiration for more people to participate in direct action, taking a stand for a just world.