NOTE: After this story was published, local religious leader Anwar Arafat contacted WREG to clearly state that Friday’s demonstration was not connected to Hamas or the reported “Day of Jihad.” Arafat sent a statement Friday evening:
“This protest was organized by the Palestinian American Community Center of Memphis and is in no way affiliated with Hamas. Let me be crystal clear. As I stated in my interview, we are peacefully protesting the Israeli bombardment of innocent civilians in Gaza.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, former Hamas leaders have called for a “Day of Jihad” on Friday.
Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Memphis to show their support for Palestine, causing law enforcement agencies to be on high alert.
“We’re here just to express our anger, our frustration, our serious emotional state about what’s happening in the holy land,” said Anwar Arafat, a religious leader.
Muslims were asked to take to the streets and deliver a message of anger to support Palestinians.
This call comes as the conflict in the Middle East rages on, killing hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians.
Back on American soil, law enforcement agencies are on high alert in the event violence erupts during the pro-Palestine protests. However, Friday’s prayer and protest in Memphis remained peaceful.
Hayel Mansour, board member for the Palestinian-American Community Center of Greater Memphis, says the calls for increased security are due to misinformation and bias.
“There are more than 18 hundred people being killed and more than 62 hundred injured,” said Mansour. “We are not protesting against Jews or Judaism. We are not going to be defining ourselves as Palestinian-Americans standing for the killing of lives of any civil on both sides of the aisle.”
Protestors say they condemn the violence taking place overseas.
The ongoing violence has been taking place for decades, and those who came out say they’re protesting for the end of what they call the illegal occupation of Israel.
“Our own country America – America – the blind support that we give them. Four billion dollars annually for military aid to continue an illegal occupation. This is why we’re here,” said Anwar Arafat.
Due to safety concerns, WREG reached out to the Shelby County Emergency Management and Homeland Security agency.
A spokesman says they’ve been in contact with multiple agencies, including the FBI but have not been notified of any local threats.
“We’re not expecting any problems at this point, but we are aware and on guard,” said Charles Newell, Shelby County Emergency Management Deputy Administrator.
The Memphis Police Department released the following statement:
“We are aware of the current conflict and understand there has been a call to protest nationally. The Memphis Police Department is committed and dedicated to maintaining the safety of ALL citizens and visitors alike. We respect the community’s right to protest and encourage anyone who chooses to participate to do so peacefully and in a law-abiding manner.”