Palestine Solidarity Priority Project: Half point retrospective

Although we had been working alongside the local pro-Palestine movement prior to March, our chapter membership’s approval of the Palestine Solidarity Priority Project Proposal has allowed us to further and more formally immerse ourselves in the local struggle for Palestinian liberation. Over these past three months we have had some major wins along with a few setbacks that triggered some moments of reflection, but first we will present a quick overview of the proposal defining our work and setting our goals.

Our proposal has two pillars of activities for our chapter to engage in; the first is escalating our participation in the Cleveland Palestine Advocacy Community (hereafter referred to as CPAC) by mobilizing our members to events and taking part in meetings, the second is undergoing our own flyering/canvassing campaign in local neighborhoods where we think people would be receptive to a pro-Palestine message. Alongside these efforts we are to create a new set of Cleveland DSA shirts with a design reflective of this project’s focus on Palestine. To oversee this work the proposal sets up the following leadership roles; Communications Coordinator, Community Outreach Coordinator, Mobilization Lead and Project Administrator.


In March our chapter hit the ground running by mobilizing to CPAC events and meetings, the first of which was the car caravan on March 9th. The caravan was made up of some hundred or so vehicles with all sorts of Palestinian paraphernalia ranging from Palestine flags to car accessories with keffiyeh designs. The caravan made its way along the local highway toward the Hopkins airport, disrupting traffic all along the way. Upon arriving at the airport entrance we were greeted with a police checkpoint that prevented entry into the airport itself so the protest pivoted to shutting down the airport entrance from the highway for the next several hours. We also joined CPAC on March 30th for the rally and march through Cleveland for “Land Day”, a commemoration to the mass protests that broke out in 1976 in Palestine when the Israeli government expropriated thousands of dunams of Palestinian land.

Our work with CPAC was not limited to just protests, we also pursued a more targeted campaign at the Cleveland City Council, demanding that they pass a ceasefire resolution for Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing in Gaza. Although our members had been attending these council meetings and giving public comments alongside CPAC members prior to the project’s start, its passage gave the newly appointed project leadership the ability to officially mobilize our members to join in the pressure campaign. After weeks of public comments from both our chapter’s members as well as CPAC members, on March 25 our efforts were rewarded when the council finally gave in to our demands and passed a ceasefire resolution! In parallel with CPAC’s Cleveland based pressure campaign our chapter had also been spearheading our own similar campaign for a ceasefire resolution in the Cleveland Heights City Council which followed suit with the passage of a resolution on April 1.

But perhaps the most intense moment in our chapter’s March solidarity work would have to have been the arrest and subsequent jailing of two of our members. These comrades had been “wheat pasting” some pro-Palestine posters up around the Case Western campus late one evening when they were spotted by the university police and detained. After some intense questioning the officers placed them in the County jail where they were held over the weekend under trumped up charges. But, after inundating their office with calls demanding for our comrades’ release, they were set free with the charges against them dropped!


In April at the general meeting our chapter voted in the formal leadership group as defined by the original proposal, who were then onboarded and took over the execution of project tasks. One of which was assisting in our chapter’s fundraising concert at Happy Dog on 4/19. In total the concert raised $2,128 which was then donated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is a UN body that was set up in 1949 to support the Palestinian refugee population. Our Palestine Project leadership team also produced an Anti-Zionist resolution to be reviewed and discussed by the rest of membership with the hopes of a successful vote by the general body in the coming months.

On the CPAC front our recent success with the Cleveland City Council resolution had us shift our focus on a new target, Cuyahoga County Council, and with it a new, perhaps more substantive demand, divestment from Israeli bonds. These bonds are, in effect, a loan to the Israeli government and our county currently has around $16 million “invested” in these bonds. With the new target and goal also came a new tactic. Unlike Cleveland City Council’s 10 speaker maximum, County Council had no limit to speakers for public comment which meant if we were able to mobilize enough speakers we would be able to filibuster the meeting. So with this new tactical approach in mind we and CPAC intensified our mobilization efforts not just for attendance to the meetings but also to give public comments that would take up as much of the meeting time as possible.

Meanwhile on the local university campus of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), the CWRU SJP chapter was facing suspension for posting pro-Palestine flyers around campus. We released a statement alongside other CPAC member groups denouncing the CWRU administration’s actions. However this suspension, rather than coercing the students into compliance, only served to further radicalize the rest of the student body. It was in this environment of strained tensions between the university administration and its students that on April 29th the students began the CWRU encampment.


May started off with the CWRU encampment already in full swing, with events like teach-ins, crafting and even a concert to occupy the students and community member participants. Although the initial set up of the encampment at the end of April saw some intense police aggression against the students and community members (a DSA comrade was arrested briefly before being released by officers due to “having nowhere to hold them”) the bulk of subsequent antagonism came from a tiny group of hostile counter protesters. Local rabid Zionists Alex Popovich and Lawrence, well known for their uncanny ability to reach new depths of depravity in their remarks and protest symbols, set up shop each day on the sidewalk just outside the KSL Oval where the encampment was set up. They would blast Zionist propaganda through speakers and yell insults and threats at the students and supportive community members. In this tense environment of combative counter protesters, prowling police from various local departments and looming reprisals from a hostile university administration the students managed to hold strong together in their tents for over a week even participating in the Rally for Rafah that CPAC organized at the Wade Lagoon. Finally on March 9th, after also setting up a sit in at the administrative building overnight, the encampment disbanded. In the immediate aftermath the administration hit several of the students with “code of conduct violations” for their participation in the encampment and even went as far as denying them the ability to attend graduation and withholding their diplomas. Both Cleveland DSA and CPAC have been assisting these students fight the administration by offering legal aid and pressuring the administration with phone calls and emails with some successes in negotiations, but the situation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, back at the County Council, CPAC and DSA’s efforts at mobilizing were bearing fruit as the number of attendees as well as speakers for public comment continued to grow with each passing meeting. Our demands to the council members also became more defined with the following 3 demands; passing an ordinance that prohibits investment in any foreign government, providing a report that outlined the “due diligence process” that led to the investment and reinvestment into these Israeli bonds and finally the creation of an investment review board that is headed by community members to scrutinize and, if needed, reject investment decisions made by the county. We were also able to squeeze in a disruption of a mayor Bibb event going on at a local brewery after a council session, which ended with him sheepishly retreating from his event and CPAC commandeering the podium to bring awareness to the ongoing atrocities Israel was committing in Gaza.

In Cleveland DSA specific news we completed revising the aforementioned Anti-Zionist resolution to better reflect the chapter’s views and intentions with its current and future Palestine solidarity work, and ended up passing the resolution at the June general meeting. Given the significant changes that had occurred in the political landscape around Palestine solidarity work, the leadership team also put together a list of amendments to the original proposal which was also passed in the subsequent June general meeting. Finally we hosted a Protest 101 teach-in event to go over some best practices when organizing and participating in protests for our members and CPAC members on 5/18.

As we hit the halfway point for our 6 month project the leadership team has been reflecting on these events as well as the unfinished work that is outlined in the proposal to chart out the course for the remaining 3 months. Although the full liberation of Palestine and its people, both within its borders and exiled across the world, is still far off in the distance, it is our chapter’s hope that our ongoing local work as well as the work being undertaken by our fellow chapters across the country and the broader left movement will drive our world closer to a just conclusion to this century long struggle for liberation.

Free Palestine!


Note: A previous version of this article stated that Cleveland DSA had officially joined the Palestine coalition with the passage of our priority proposal in March 2024. A prior resolution passed in January 2024 had already “affirmed our participation in” the coalition, itself following two months of chapter participation in Palestine rallies. The March priority proposal called on Cleveland DSA to “escalate and centralize our contribution to the Cleveland Palestine coalition”.