On Dec. 8, the Palestinian flag was raised at Eaton Plaza in downtown Fresno, a month after the flag of Israel was raised there. Only three other U.S. cities have raised the flag of Palestine.
More than 500 people, many from the Palestinian American community, showed up to commemorate the event. The lively crowd chanted phrases such as “Ceasefire now!” and “Free, free Palestine.” Many had tears in their eyes when the flag was raised.
Fresno City Council Member Miguel Arias, who facilitated the flag-raising effort, and Paul Dictos, Fresno County assessor/recorder, spoke at the flag raising. Arias says that he has since received more than 500 e-mail threats, all from out of town, including death threats and threats of rape of a family member.
“Fresno is the fifth largest city [in California] and the ninth most diverse city in the United States,” said Arias. “In recent months, we have raised the Armenian flag, the Mexican flag, the LGBTQ [Pride] flag, the Ukrainian flag, the Israeli flag and now the Palestinian flag.”
Addressing the war casualties, Arias said that “my god doesn’t differentiate between Israeli and Palestinian lives, and the City [of Fresno] shouldn’t either.”
Fresno resident Yasir Amireh is a member of the Palestine Freedom Project, a local group that organized the event. He said it was time to unite the community and took time to wish Happy Hanukkah to his friends and the Jewish community in Fresno.
After the flag raising, Amireh said, “Thank you, everyone. This is the first time in my life that I feel that I have an identity.”
This flag raising “would not have happened without your support, protesting, educating people, going to speak at City Hall, visiting with and calling members of the state government and Congress,” he said. He called for an immediate ceasefire and decried the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Gaza.
Layla Darwish, also a member of the Palestine Freedom Project, said that the event made her feel proud, validated and included. “For the first time ever, I feel like I’ve been heard and listened to,” she told Fresnoland.
“Before, people wouldn’t even know what Palestine was when asking about my ethnicity. Today, everyone will know what Palestine is.”
Several speakers asked City Council Member Garry Bredefeld to publicly apologize for continuing to spread falsehoods, such as the beheading of babies in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.
As the war rages on, peace activists, Palestinian Americans and all people of conscience continue to call on the Fresno City Council to pass a ceasefire resolution, joining Oakland, Richmond, Cudahy, Detroit, Atlanta and other cities across the country.