By: Sheri Kasprzak | Newsweek | November 23 2023
Pro-Palestinian groups across the United States are staging Black Friday protests to demand a permanent cease fire in Gaza. Organizers told Newsweek they're rallying at commercial centers, refusing to shop at large corporate stores and attending virtual protests as hundreds of millions of Americans flock to retailers Friday.
The protests will come just hours after a temporary cease fire begins in Gaza that calls for the release of 50 Israeli hostages being held by Hamas.
Groups like Shut It Down 4 Palestine, Calling Up Justice and the ANSWER Coalition are staging boycotts, rallies and other protests to send a message to the Biden administration, they told Newsweek.
"We believe the protests on Black Friday are a crucially important way to make it clear that there will be no business as usual until Palestine is free," Walter Smolarek, the media coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition told Newsweek. "Black Friday is one of the most profitable days of the year for major corporations, and if these corporations are unable to function as usual, that will become another source of pressure on the Biden administration to end its participation in the genocide of Palestinians."
Smolarek said the cease fire will make the protests even more significant.
"We will demand that Israel and the U.S. government not reinitiate their genocide at the end of the pause but instead accept a permanent ceasefire," he said.
Thousands of Students Protest
National Students for Justice in Palestine told Newsweek that tens of thousands of students have protested nationwide since the conflict in Gaza began in early October, and Friday's action is an extension of this campaign.
"National SJP and our allies in the Shut It Down 4 Palestine campaign intend to send the message that as long as Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people, there will be no business as usual," National SJP said in a statement to Newsweek. "Tens of thousands of students across the country have consistently turned out for protests in support of Palestine for the past six weeks, the largest mobilization in U.S. history for Palestine, and we do not expect this level of support to weaken."
A group called Calling Up Justice is organizing a digital protest on Friday, said Claudia Alick, the group's executive producer.
"Our last protest had over 500 people sign up to participate, and these digital gatherings are connecting to the in-person protests on the streets, so potentially we're collaborating with thousands of good people," Alick told Newsweek. "This year, we're not giving our dollars to those who fund genocide. For Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Christmas, instead of shopping, we're focusing on community and local businesses. We're doing the labor to help organize people who want to exchange among themselves mutual-aid style."
Pro-Israel Groups Speak Out
Pro-Israel education organization StandWithUs told Newsweek the permanent ceasefire the pro-Palestinian protesters are seeking would enable Hamas to work towards their goal of "the eradication of Israel and the Jewish people."
Roz Rothstein, co-founder and chief executive officer of StandWithUs, said the ceasefire would allow Hamas to stay in power in Gaza.
"Israel cannot continue living next door to an Iran-backed terrorist government that launches indiscriminate rockets into Israeli civilian populations from Palestinian civilian areas, while threatening to repeat the sadistic crimes of October 7," Rothstein said in a statement to Newsweek.
Rothstein said anyone protesting to keep Hamas in power, including groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and the IfNotNow Movement in rallies against Israel, will continue the oppression and violence in Gaza.
"Israel is determined to bring security back to its people and is working towards a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians," Rothstein said.
Protests Coincide with Record Black Friday
The planned Black Friday protests coincide with 180 million people flocking to department stores and online retailers to do their holiday shopping, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. The NRF forecasts spending to hit record levels during November and December with sales projected to grow between 3 and 4 percent over 2022 to between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion.