War in Gaza inspires small Oak Harbor vigil

A small group of community members has been gathering to show solidarity with Palestinian people.

For the past few weeks, a small group of community members has been gathering at the corner of Highway 20 and Beeksma Drive to show solidarity with the Palestinian people amid Israel’s war on Gaza.

Asaya Plumly, a local resident, said he has been in community movements for equality and social justice for a while and has traveled to different cities around the country and abroad.

While he has seen different community efforts to show solidarity with Palestinians, including on the South End, he noticed there wasn’t anything going on in Oak Harbor.

He started by showing up to the little park at the intersection, holding up signs and waving at drivers with his mother. Then, a few people joined, either by word of mouth or simply by joining after driving by.

Plumly said he doesn’t have a set schedule for future vigils, though passersby are welcome to join.

Last Thursday, there were about 10 people. A small group, but the modest attendance and the generally positive response of the drivers have been encouraging to Plumly, who found it’s difficult for some people to process in solitude what has been going on overseas with all the news, photos and videos documenting the war that have been circulating online.

To him, it has also been difficult seeing his tax money go towards the shipment of weapons to Israel.

“As a citizen and a taxpayer, I feel directly connected to those decisions,” he said. “Oftentimes, it feels like what you say and do has no effect, especially when you see elected officials not paying attention or not hearing what people all over the country and all over the globe are demanding.”

But by meeting, praying and reflecting with others, Plumly has found some hope. To him, small community actions like spreading awareness, participating in vigils, boycotting, and contacting elected officials can have a positive effect, supporting a global effort to demand peace.

Historically, he said, a variety of large citizen movements has been successful in influencing governments to make change.

It’s been seven months since Hamas attacked Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 240 Israeli hostages. Since then, Israel has been retaliating by attacking homes, hospitals, mosques, churches, schools, businesses and other buildings, killing over 34,000 people. Thousands more remain buried under the rubble, according to multiple news sources.

Many people around the globe have been protesting against what they say is a genocide and are demanding for a ceasefire. According to United Nations Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese, there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Israel has been committing genocide against the Palestinians, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden denied it.