CHICAGO, Illinois — Hundreds of far-left Jewish activists and their allies converged at a major train station in downtown Chicago during rush hour Monday morning, blocking the entrance to the Israeli consulate and demanding US support for a ceasefire as battles rage between Israel and Hamas in northern Gaza.
Midwestern Jews and allies traveled to Chicago from Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois for the demonstration, organizers said.
The Israeli consulate in Chicago is in a building connected to the Ogilvie Transportation Center, a major commuter rail station.
Over 100 protesters, who blocked escalators leading to the consulate, were arrested for misdemeanor trespassing and escorted out of the building, according to Ben Lorber, who helped organize the protest led by Chicago chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, and Never Again Action.
That information was not confirmed by Chicago police, who could not immediately provide information on the number and reasons for arrests, and how many demonstrators participated.
Israeli Consul General to Chicago Yinam Cohen said in a statement that the demonstration was “not about peace.”
Arrests are ongoing outside the Israeli consulate in Chicago. We’re not leaving and we won’t until there’s a ceasefire, an end to the occupation, and Palestine is free! pic.twitter.com/ZJ4oZkkiBB
— JVP Chicago (@JVPChicago) November 13, 2023
“Those who publicly support Hamas, a designated terrorist organization who murdered [roughly 1,200] Israelis on Oct. 7, rip down American flags, and chant ‘from the River to the Sea’ — a call to annihilate the State of Israel — do not represent peace,” Cohen said. “We are overwhelmed by the endless support for Israel by millions of Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s March for Israel in DC, the largest rally for Israel in decades.”
War erupted in the Gaza Strip after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.
Israel says its offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas’s military and governance capabilities, and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.
Jewish Voice for Peace led a similar sit-in in New York City’s Grand Central Station on October 27, where a sea of protesters filled the main concourse during evening rush hour, chanting slogans and unfurling banners demanding a ceasefire as Israel intensified its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. At least 200 demonstrators were detained by New York police officers.
And more than 300 people were arrested in Washington, DC, on October 19 for illegally demonstrating, and three people were charged with assaulting police, after protesters descended on Capitol Hill to call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The Chicago rally is different from the previous Jewish Voice demonstrations because in the Midwest, “progressive Jewish communities are far smaller and separated by distance,” according to an emailed press release from organizers.
Chicago protesters cheered Monday as police led demonstrators from the building with hands zip-tied behind their backs, many in black T-shirts that read, “Not in our name.”
“We will not let a genocide happen in our name,” said Clara Belitz of IfNotNow Chicago during an Instagram livestream of the protest. “Our Jewish values compel us to speak out.” IfNotNow describes itself as a movement of American Jews organizing to end US support of “the Israeli government’s apartheid system.”
A spokesperson for Metra, the city’s commuter rail system, said that trains continued to run normally, but protesters blocked the southern exit and commuters were forced to leave the station through other doors.
“They shut down access to our platforms from the 500 West Madison building,” where the consulate is located, said Meg Reile, a spokesperson for Metra. “Trains continued to run throughout.”