Gaza Catastrophe Exposes the System

Young activists marching through the River Park mall on April 7. Photo by Brandi Nuse Villegas
Young activists marching through the River Park mall on April 7. Photo by Brandi Nuse Villegas

Say their names:

  • Watin Ahmed Khaled Al-Saidi—0 years old
  • Adi Adam Jamal Abu Al-Naga—1 year old
  • Elaine Muhammed Fayez Abu Odeh—2 years old
  • Anas Muhannad Sami Aslim—3 years old
  • Rakan Ahmed Hisham Abu Dalal—4 years old

These are the names and ages of only five of the more than 14,000 children killed by U.S. bombs and missiles since Oct. 7 (names published by Al Jazeera News) in Israel’s war on Gaza. More than 34,000 Palestinians have been murdered with our tax dollars since the genocide began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Many thousands remain buried under the rubble.

The war on children in Gaza has exposed the depravity, extreme violence and immorality of both the Israeli and U.S. governments. It has exposed the insanity of a war based on foreign policy and economics. It has exposed the mass profiteering of military contractors and their shareholders. It has opened the eyes of many Americans, in particular, young Americans.

Young Americans are seeing the death, destruction and brutality of a ghastly war directly on social media. They don’t believe mainstream media accounts and immoral politicians. They are questioning the legitimacy of the government itself. They are questioning capitalism.

They want to end the war. They want to end inequality. They want to end racism and discrimination. They want justice, and they want another system. They believe another world is possible.

The youth have always been more aware and leaders of change, and the youth are again leading the movement to end the war on the civilians of Gaza. From sit-ins, blockades, marches, hunger strikes, civil disobedience actions and more, young people are organizing locally and across the world.

The 1960s was filled with youth movements that fought for racial equality, peace, free speech, public school funding and many other issues that have significantly shaped American life.

Many young women have led movements, like student organizer Diane Nash of the Nashville Student Movement, who was 20 years old when she and other students first challenged the segregation policies at lunch counters in Nashville by starting a sit-in movement that led to them being desegregated.

Young leaders such as Angela Davis and Black Panthers Huey Newton, Fred Hampton (murdered by the Chicago Police Department at the age of 21) and Bobby Seale directly challenged the state. Young Americans Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others led a movement that established racial justice and permanent change. They joined forces with youth leaders such as Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman and many other antiwar activists who helped bring an end to the Vietnam war.

The American Indian Movement was led by young Indigenous people. It revolutionized thousands of young Americans and was such a threat to the state that the FBI framed young Indigenous leader Leonard Peltier, who remains a political prisoner to this day.

In East Los Angeles, in March 1968, nearly 20,000 students participated in a series of walkouts to call for an end to the war and for major changes in the schools themselves.

The walkouts were led by such youth leaders as 17-year-old Paula Crisostomo of Lincoln High School, along with her teacher, Sal Castro. Students from five East L.A. high schools first walked out of their classrooms on March 6 to protest the many inequalities and racial injustice that Chicano students experienced in L.A. public schools.

Known as the East L.A. “Blowouts,” the walkouts involved such grassroots activist groups as the Brown Berets and the Young Citizens for Community Action, helping mobilize students to participate in the walkouts and taking the students’ demands to the Board of Education, leading to important educational reforms.

Because of their efforts, L.A. schools added bilingual classes, more Chicano school staff and ethnic studies to the curriculum and made improvements to their schools’ libraries and classrooms.

Walkouts have been an important, nonviolent tactic used by students to protest injustices. In 2006, across California, more than 40,000 students in Los Angeles alone walked out of their classrooms to protest an anti-immigration House bill.

Sit-ins, marches, walkouts, rallies and social media tool kits are just some of the ways immigrant youth have been coming together since 2012 to first make DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) a reality during the Obama administration and then defend DACA from the Trump administration, and to expand the rights of all undocumented immigrants, and advocate for legislation that would allow for a path to citizenship.

The National School Walkout of 2018 by thousands of students across the United States to demand stricter gun control measures after experiencing numerous school shootings is another recent example of youth activism.

Seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier filmed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd Jr. on May 25, 2020, until he died. His killing activated people from around the world, and they demonstrated in the streets. Demonstrators in all 50 states braved a pandemic to protest for more than 100 consecutive days in some towns. The Black Lives Matter movement is one of the largest youth movements ever in the United States.

Across the planet, youth have demanded major police reforms in Nigeria, called for sexual and reproductive rights in Argentina, mobilized for democratic freedoms in Hong Kong and Thailand, challenged corruption in Slovakia and gone on strike for the climate all around the world. The so-called Arab Spring in the Middle East was led and sustained by the youth of Tunisia, Egypt and throughout the region.

In the United States, young activists have gone on strike for the climate, occupied government offices, led mass demonstrations and built organizations such as the Sunrise Movement.

Megan Mullin, an associate professor of environmental politics at Duke University studying public opinion about climate change, notes that utilizing social platforms to effect change requires more effort than it might appear.

“The youth climate activists have made great use of social media and other tools, but we can’t think of this movement—or any social movement—as something spontaneous or unplanned,” Mullin says. “It’s the product of enormous work.

“Over the last two years, we have seen meaningful change in Americans’ concern about climate change and the priority they attach to addressing the problem. The youth climate movement is doubtlessly part of what’s caused this shift.”

Youth activism is very much alive around the world. It is imperative that we all join in their efforts to make another world possible. La Lucha Continua! (“The Struggle Continues!”)



  • Al Jazeera News
  • PBS SoCal: “How Youth Are Taking the Lead in Issues Local to Global,” Jessica Taft, Oct. 20, 2020.
  • PBS SoCal: “Youth Activism in America: From Armbands and Walkouts to Bus Rides and Voter Drives That Would Shape Our Democracy,” Teena Apeles, March 2024


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