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Pro-Palestine protesters march through Ottawa calling for ‘no Christmas as usual’ amid bombing in Gaza

Just two days before Christmas, pro-Palestine demonstrators again took to the streets of Ottawa to denounce Israel’s ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

Organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, the protest, dubbed “No Xmas as Usual During Genocide” featured some protesters donning Santa Claus costumes as the repeated refrain of calling for a permanent ceasefire in the region and for Canada to end arms sales to Israel.

“Palestinian Christians and the city of Bethlehem cancelled Christmas celebrations this year in solidarity with Gaza,” the Palestinian Youth Movement said in a post on Instagram, advertising the rally, which began at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street before weaving through downtown Ottawa.

Officials in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, chose to forgo the usual Christmas festivities this year because of the ongoing war in Gaza. Typically, thousands flock every year to the traditional birthplace of Jesus to celebrate Christmas.

This is the 11th consecutive weekend of protests in Ottawa held by the Palestinian Youth Movement and its supporters. Some of the rallies have drawn thousands of people.

Earlier in the afternoon, a group called “Labour for Palestine” held a small protest outside the Scotiabank on Rideau Street. Protesters dressed as Santa Claus declared politicians such as Justin Trudeau and Melanie Joly, and companies like Scotiabank, Zara, Starbucks, and Lockheed Martin were on the “naughty list”, while groups like Doctors Without Borders, MPP Sara Jama, uOttawa resident physician Yipeng Ge were on the “nice list.”

A heightened police presence was observed downtown and at the Rideau Centre mall, where a Zara store is located. Last week, pro-Palestine protesters marched through Bayshore Shopping Centre to protest the Spanish fashion chain because of a now-cancelled advertising campaign that critics said referenced the devastation and death in Gaza. Ottawa police said Bayshore management asked officers to disperse the crowd of about 100 people and they had left within one hour.

Pro-Palestine demonstrators, some dressed as Santa Claus, march through downtown Ottawa. Dec. 23, 2023. (City of Ottawa Traffic Camera)

The march also comes a day after the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution to provide more aid to Palestinians in Gaza and to “create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.” The United States and Russia abstained from the vote, allowing it to pass.

Earlier this month, 153 member states in the U.N. General Assembly, including Canada, voted in favour of a demand for a humanitarian ceasefire, marking a shift in policy by the federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“For eleven consecutive weeks, we have taken the streets of Ottawa to demand an immediate ceasefire, an end to the blockade on Gaza, and an end to the Canadian financial and military support emboldening Israel’s aggression on Palestinians. We will not stop until all our demands are met and until return and liberation,” the Palestinian Youth Movement said.

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