Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

MIAMI BEACH — As fair visitors flowed in and out of the Miami Beach Convention Center on the third day of Art Basel, Friday, December 8, artists and activists from multiple advocacy groups rallied outside the entrance to demand a permanent ceasefire in Palestine. Calling for an end to Miami-Dade County’s investments in Israeli bonds to the tune of $76 million, demonstrators lined up along Convention Center Drive holding Palestinian flags and placards that read “Divest From Death” and “Call It What It Is: Genocide.”

Under the collective name South Florida Coalition for Palestine, the ad hoc group of over 100 demonstrators includes both cultural workers and members of the nationwide anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

“Netanyahu, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?” chanted protesters as a few cars in the adjacent parking lot honked. Others, including fairgoers exiting the Convention Center who were taken by surprise by the demonstration, booed at the group; one woman shouted, “Release the hostages.” Wendy Blazier, a local art historian and curator, told Hyperallergic amid tears that she was moved to see young people “protesting against violence.”

At least 16 police officers surrounded the protesters as they unfurled and held up a massive green banner with the words “Let Palestine Live” on the sidewalk facing the building parking lot. Around 4:15pm, an hour into the action, a demonstrator was arrested after an apparent scuffle with an officer who blocked him from crossing into the protest area. Rachel Komich, a writer present at the action who witnessed the incident, told Hyperallergic that the officer “grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him against the wall.”

The Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) told Hyperallergic that the activist was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting without violence. A second protester was arrested on charges of resisting without violence, the spokesperson for MBPD said.

The protesters raised Palestine flags outside the Miami Beach Convention Center
Protesters at Art Basel Miami Beach call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Protesters chanted, “Netanyahu, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?”

Nikki Morse, a filmmaking teacher from West Palm Beach and member of the South Florida chapter of SVP, told Hyperallergic that she was at the protest to affirm the point that “never again is now.”

“As an observant Jew, I’m horrified to see what’s being done in Palestine, the genocide that’s taking place, supposedly in our name,” Morse said. “I’m here to say: This is not in our name, this is not for Jewish safety.”

The demonstration comes as the death toll continues to rise in Gaza and the Occupied Territories, with more than 17,000 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military since October 7 as the United States continues to provide weapons to the regime. International entities including the United Nations have called for urgent action to stop the attacks in order “to prevent genocide against the Palestinian people.”

Activists denounced investments in Israeli bonds by Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami Beach, had invested $51 million in Israeli bonds prior to October 7. On October 17, in the wake of Hamas’s attack, county Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced an additional $25 million investment. According to the Guardian, US states have purchased $300 million in Israeli bonds in recent weeks; a majority of the investments were made by Republican states.

Marty Rajandram, a Miami resident who was at the protest today, said that as a senior citizen she could not afford to visit Art Basel — where even a discounted ticket for people over 62 costs $58 — and that she had come to the Convention Center specifically for the action. She wore a bright yellow sign bearing the number of Palestinian children killed in the last two months: nearly 7,000.

“What Israel is doing is inhumane. The killing of children everyday is heartbreaking. It has to end,” Rajandram said. “I don’t agree with what Hamas did, I think the murder of people in Israel was terrible, but what Israel is doing is far worse and I don’t think anyone will ever forgive them for this.”

This is a developing story. Please check back throughout the day for updated information.

An activist’s sign outside Art Basel Miami Beach
“Divest from death,” read one of the signs at the protest.

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