The day before, Rasmea Odeh and her supporters were in Cincinnati, Ohio for her hearing in federal appeals court with the aim to overturn her unjust conviction. Her lawyer, Michael Deutsch, presented a compelling statement, arguing for retrial while the prosecutor, Jonathan Tukel, stumbled through his argument.
With news that the hearing went well, the protesters gathered determinedly on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. Homam Nasser, organizer with the Committee to Stop FBI Repression-Tampa, led the rally and began it with loud chants, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “FBI get off our backs, we have had enough attacks!”
Nasser introduced the first speaker from the University of South Florida’s (USF) Students for Justice in Palestine, Sam Beutler, who gave a rousing speech about Palestinian solidarity amongst students at USF said, “SJP will continue to struggle against Zionism and its presence in the university. The fight for Rasmea, for victims of academic repression and for all Palestinian political prisoners necessarily means a blow to the colonizing forces of Israel.”
The next speaker was Elizabeth Kramer, from Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society, who gave a powerful speech about how the U.S. and Israel profit from oppressing Palestinians and political prisoners, “It is necessary for the U.S. and for Israel to protect themselves, to protect the systems of oppression that maintain their power. In the US, as in occupied Palestine, this means imprisonment. This means confession under duress, as in the case of Rasmea where she was tortured, including sexual assault, by the IDF. This means harassment or entrapment by the police, the CIA, FBI or other government agencies. This means violent confrontation by the police and other militarized state controlled bodies, as in the case of the Baltimore and Ferguson uprisings. But this should harden our resolve. This should inspire us further, to end the system whereby fighting for liberation can mean death.”
The next speaker, Jared Hoey, from Freedom Road Socialist Organization, stated, “It’s very telling that a federal judge finds a woman’s mental state after years of torture and rape to be irrelevant. This is endemic of our society’s oppression against women, and is essentially brushing off and accepting the use of rape as a tool of war. It’s a witch hunt that’s going on, one that is trying to intimidate and scare those that dare fight back against imperialism and national oppression. Despite these efforts at repression, the fight goes on, stronger than ever. We’re here, we’re not going anywhere, and we are not afraid!”
The final speaker was Jessica Schwartz, a member of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and Freedom Road Socialist Organization who had attended the Cincinnati appeals hearing. She said, “Despite how this may sound, the people are winning. Judge Drain admitted during the sentencing that the punishment would have been harsher if Rasmea did not have a sea of supporters demanding her freedom. The system is trembling at its knees. All we need is to keep pushing for liberation and justice until the empire falls to its knees.”
With Schwartz’s final words and another round of chants, the rally ended on a high note.
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression-Tampa and its allies will continue organizing in solidarity with Odeh.