Despite a change of plans where Handala was not able to stop in Waterford, local Palestinian solidarity friends organized wonderful events.
City council member John Hearne led the events; John had been part of the 2011 Freedom Flotilla crew on the Saoirse, one of two boats that had their propellers and pipes leading to their engines damaged by what is believed to be sabotage.
On Wednesday July 5 there was an event at the Waterford Quay with great public exposure. Several dockworkers, Waterford’s mayor, a city council member and People Before Profit, shared their support for Handala and the need for ending the illegal blockade on Gaza. Palestinian rights activists and the press also attended.
Kit Kittredge of the Freedom Flotilla was there and spoke about the Flotilla and offered shirts and distributed materials including Gaza Stickers , GAZA postcards and postcards showing the disappearing map of Palestine.
The event on Waterford Quay was followed by an action in the shopping district, at Red Square/Bishop Square with flags, handing out material and talking to folks about the Flotilla and Palestine.
There was also a tree planting event at a local elder center in support of Palestine.
Freedom Flotilla representative Kit Kittredge did a radio interview and the Waterford News & Star wrote an article about the visit: “Gaza Freedom Flotilla reaches Waterford to highlight Palestinian human rights.”
That evening, local Palestinians served barbeque and other food at St. Patrick’s Gate Center. In attendance was a young boy who had just arrived from Gaza to live with his uncle. Speeches that evening covered the Freedom Flotilla Coalition goals and actions, personal experiences in Gaza and in Israeli prison. Members of previous freedom flotillas spoke at length about their sailing to break the blockade, how their boats were pirated by the Israeli navy and how they were treated while being detained and in Israeli prisons. Many people contributed to a lively, impassioned evening about Palestine, actions, politics, networking and solidarity.
The final event was at a pub where a whole other group joined us and numerous folks came up to speak about their support for our efforts and their solidarity with Palestine.
One of the most moving stories shared during the Waterford events was told by Councillor Fitzgerald. He spoke about a friend he and Councillor Hearne got to know when they were in Gaza, a man named Ibrahim Abu. Ibrahim was a fisherman who almost died when an Israeli missile hit the fishing trawler he was working on. Eight of his fellow fishermen died in the attack.
The Irish Friends of Palestine bought Ibrahim a motorized wheelchair. Unfortunately, Ibrahim was killed by an Israeli sniper while protesting in Gaza in 2017. Councillor Fitzgerald said: “We really must learn to stand up and speak out for people in Palestine and all the oppression going on there.”
Thanks to the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign activists, trade unionists, civic leaders, and human rights activists of Waterford!