Poughkeepsie 4 Palestine marches on Raymond Avenue

Allison Lowe/The Miscellany News.

The grassroots, youth-led organization, Poughkeepsie 4 Palestine, held a march in support of the Palestinian people on Sunday, Jan. 21. The march, beginning just outside of Vassar’s campus, in front of the gate on the corner of Raymond and College Avenues, called for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. A group of a few dozen protestors, composed of Hudson Valley residents, Vassar students and Vassar alumnae/i, convened in sub-freezing temperatures to march along Raymond Avenue, with the goal of expressing solidarity with Palestinians and encouraging local organizations and representatives to do the same. The march was populated with protestors bearing supportive signs, wearing keffiyehs (a traditional Arab headdress that has come to symbolize the struggle for a Palestinian state) and waving Palestinian flags. Organizers led chants as the protestors trekked along the snowy Poughkeepsie sidewalks. 

The march continued on to the office of Representative Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.), who has represented New York’s 18th Congressional District since 2023. This was motivated by Ryan accepting nearly $26,000 in campaign donations from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as well as his vocal support of Israel following the Oct. 7 attacks. Following previous demonstrations in his congressional district that have called for a ceasefire, Ryan stated in an interview with the Times Union that it would take both sides to commit to a ceasefire, saying, “What I’ve been calling for is that as soon as Hamas is willing to stop its attacks and commit to not continuing them, Israel must do the same, and then we will have an effective and lasting cease-fire.” 

In front of Ryan’s office on Raymond Avenue, organizers and protestors had the opportunity to give speeches to the crowd. Rahul-Daniyal Kumar, the 14-year-old founder and president of Poughkeepsie 4 Palestine, spoke about the three Palestinian students—Kinnan Abdalhamid, Tahseen Ali Ahmad and Hisham Awartani—who were shot in Burlington, Vermont. He expressed the danger that Arab and Muslim students around the country now face, with threats such as these becoming more frequent. In an interview following the march, Kumar elaborated on this sentiment, explaining how intense this pressure can be, especially as an activist and organizer. He said, “You just think—people who look like you and are from a similar cultural background… When you see those three boys being shot for just wearing a scarf, that weighs on you a lot. And you’re really worried if you’re going to be next.” 

Kumar, who is from Poughkeepsie, founded Poughkeepsie 4 Palestine in November 2023. He was inspired to start a movement in order to give an opportunity for Hudson Valley locals—especially young students such as himself—to learn more about Palestine and the treatment of the Palestinian people. The weekend prior to the Jan. 21 protest, he and the other leaders of Poughkeepsie 4 Palestine planned to hold the march on Raymond Avenue, so that it could be accessible to Vassar students as well as local community members. 

Kumar expressed feeling relatively at ease while speaking in front of the crowd. “I wasn’t that nervous, because it felt like a safe space,” he explained. “It felt like there was a community there. So, speaking up and doing all of that felt powerful.”

After speaking and chanting in front of Ryan’s office, the march moved to the McDonald’s on Main Street. Protestors voiced their support for boycotting the institution due to its continued support of Israel. They mentioned McDonald’s donation of 100,000 meals to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) personnel as being a motivator for the boycott. This boycott of McDonald’s, as well as other companies such as Starbucks, has become widespread since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in October. According to NBC News, the action against McDonald’s began in response to reports of a McDonald’s Israel franchise owner announcing the donation of free meals to IDF soldiers and Israeli hospitals. However, the official McDonald’s Corporation has stated that it does not support or fund any individual governments or forces involved in the conflict, and that the decisions made by local franchises were not approved by the corporation. Nonetheless, many have continued to find importance in supporting a total boycott of McDonald’s, with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement endorsing and encouraging it. Poughkeepsie 4 Palestine marchers encouraged moving toward local Arab-owned businesses instead. 

Speakers at the march also emphasized the importance of education and community. They encouraged taking actions such as forming local reading groups to read Palestinian writings and discuss them together. 

Another common sentiment that was highlighted throughout the march was the idea of solidarity and universality. Kumar explained, “I talked about how, right now, standing with Palestine isn’t about religion or ethnicity… It’s about humanity. It’s about standing with people as they go through genocide.” 

Kumar further explained that Poughkeepsie 4 Palestine stands against all forms of discrimination and hatred, stating, “Just because you stand with Palestine, that doesn’t mean you have any hatred or any resentment against the Israeli people or Jewish people. We, as an organization, condemn all types of antisemitism and all types of excuses to [spread] blatant hatred.”  

After this, the march left McDonald’s and moved back to its starting point on the corner of Raymond and College Avenues. In front of the gate to Vassar’s campus, members of the march took the time to advertise upcoming events, such as Vassar Students for Justice in Palestine (VSJP)’s open board meeting, a gathering of the Hudson Valley branch of Jewish Voices for Peace and a rally in Newburgh. Kumar also promised an event in Beacon that would take place by the end of February. 

The march left off on a hopeful note, with plans for future action and community-building efforts. Yet, protestors remained aware of the gravity of the situation. John Francis Mulligan, an activist and LaGrangeville resident, elaborated on his purpose in attending the march in a written statement to The Miscellany News. “I protest today against the ongoing genocide of Palestinians,” he stated. “All the mosques in Gaza have been bombed, all the universities have been bombed, and last documented—there were only 6 ambulances for a population of 2.5 million…We demanded ceasefire and humanitarian [aid] to Gaza.”

An anonymous Vassar student who attended spoke about their experience at the protest, saying, “It was my first protest. I think it was a really big turnout. It was nice to see a lot of familiar faces coming from campus…and a lot of people that were very passionate.”

The Vassar student also spoke on the importance of the College community getting involved in actions such as the Poughkeepsie 4 Palestine march. They explained, “Even though we’re super far away, it’s the least we can do, especially because Vassar is partly complicit. We can advocate and be voices for the voiceless. It’s important to keep advocating for what we believe in, and hopefully there can be a ceasefire.” Kumar similarly echoed the importance of Vassar students being able to express their views, saying, “I think that something we can control is that we, as the Vassar community, are not complicit in this genocide.”

Poughkeepsie 4 Palestine plans to continue taking actions that will support Palestine, with many of these upcoming plans being shared on their Instagram. The march along Raymond Avenue is slated to occur weekly on Sundays, with the exception of Jan. 28, which was canceled due to weather. Kumar highlighted the importance of continuing actions such as these in the Hudson Valley in particular, saying, “The Hudson Valley is an important part of not only New York State, but also, I believe, the country as well… It’s an area that needs to be recognized more in youth activism. I wanted to be a part of that and I want our organization to be a part of that.”

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