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Newly reformed local activism group holds call for cease-fire rally

Hayden Wittenborn
Protesters meet at the corner of 321 and 105 on Blowing Rock to express their support for Palestine on Feb. 2, 2024. One protester waves a Palestinian flag while others hold up signs.

Around 30-40 community members and App State students, faculty and staff gathered Sunday at the corner of Blowing Rock Road and Highway 105 to call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas War. 

They formed a line on the sidewalk, wrapping around the corner in front of the Wells Fargo, leaving space for passersby. Holding homemade signs and waving various flags, the participants shouted call-and-response style chants against the revving of engines and honking from 3-4 p.m. 

Gregory Reck said High Country Peace and Justice spent two days organizing the protest. 

“We found out there are a number of these going on nationally, today,” Reck said. “So we got word about that through social media and we just decided Friday to do this.”

One protester stands with a sign addressing President Joe Biden and U.S. support for Israel. Photo taken on Feb. 4, 2024. (Hayden Wittenborn)

Reck, a professor emeritus in the Department of Anthropology, helped organize the protest and has been working with several other community members in the revitalization of the High Country Peace and Justice organization. 

The organization was originally formed in 2001 following 9/11, Reck said. 

“We existed for eight years at that time and worked on peace and justice issues, had speakers, films, workshops about what was happening in the Middle East and other issues,” Reck said. “So we thought we’d revived this organization now because of the Israeli War on Gaza.”

Reck said the group learned during previous protests that the intersection of U.S. Highway 321 and Highway 105 garnered more attention to their cause because of the high-volume traffic. For the group’s first protest since the organization’s revitalization, they decided to return to their original corner in front of Wells Fargo. 

Senior public health major Salma Treish said she joined High Country Peace and Justice after hearing about it through her involvement with App State’s Muslim Student Association. 

Treish, along with many other participants, led the protestors in chants for around an hour. 

Several motorists and passengers honked their horns at the protestors. The group looked toward the vehicle before reacting, waiting to see if they should applaud the support or ignore an obscene gesture. 

Local resident Mary Stevens said she attended the protest with her children, alongside other family and friends. 

Protesters make sure to hold their signs towards traffic to ensure their visibility to passersby. They express their desire for peace and justice in Palestine. Photo taken Feb. 4, 2024.(Hayden Wittenborn)

“I’ve seen a lot of hate from people driving by, a lot of people flipping the bird, even at my children,” Stevens said. “They are rolling their windows down to argue with other people, while we’re just seeking peace. We’re not arguing back.” 

Stevens said she also had witnessed many people honking or yelling from their window supporting the protest. 

“Even a small town can make a difference,” Stevens said. “It doesn’t matter if there’s 10 people, or 100 people or a whole city of people, we’re showing our support and in turn, we’re hearing the support from people driving by.” 

Tajalli Nash said they are calling for a cease-fire because they believe no violation of human rights should be ignored. 

“If we ignore what’s happening in Palestine, then we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to a government that won’t honor humanity,” Nash said. 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a cease-fire is defined as, “a military order to cease firing.” 

Protestors urging for a cease-fire throughout the globe hope to see a total halt to all acts of war. 

Treish said High Country Peace and Justice is pushing for the Boone Town Council to pass a resolution calling for a cease-fire, as other U.S. cities have begun to do.

One of the main reasons Ashe County resident Nancy Shannon said she attended the call for a cease-fire was the number of children that have been killed in the conflict. 

“That’s a big one for me, is advocating for the children because as the collateral damage of war, it just…I can’t live with that. So that’s probably my biggest takeaway,” Shannon said.

Protesters express their frustration about U.S. tax dollars being used to fund Israel in the war. Photo taken on Feb. 4, 2024. (Hayden Wittenborn)

Another participant focused on raising awareness of U.S. funding of Israel’s military by handing out flyers with information about North Carolina taxes. Madelyn George, a lecturer in the Department of Management, created the flyers using information from the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. 

The estimate in state tax dollars used to fund Israel’s military was found by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights by calculating the percentage of each state’s contribution to the total federal income tax and multiplying it by the total federal allocation of funds to Israel, using data from the IRS. 

I only just learned the other day that we’re sending 91 million of our tax dollars from North Carolina specifically to fund Israel’s military activity,” George said. “I just don’t think people know that. I didn’t know it was that much and I think that if more people knew that we’d be able to stand together more on this issue.”

Georgia Wilkes, a junior geography major and member of the MSA, said she has attended four protests against the Israel-Hamas War in Boone and eight or nine protests total. She said it is important to continue to show up and organize protests and calls for a cease-fire because people cannot forget about what is happening. 

These war crimes are still happening to these innocent men, women and children,” Wilkes said. 

Wilkes said the high death toll of the Israel-Hamas War is “heartbreaking” and needs to be put to a stop.

“Today’s ceasefire could save tomorrow’s dead children,” Wilkes said. 

Reck said High Country Peace and Justice will try to have the protest regularly until the cease-fire is achieved. Reck also said the organization welcomes anyone interested in joining to attend the High Country Peace and Justice meeting Saturday at 2 p.m. in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

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About the Contributors
Siri Patterson
Siri Patterson, News Editor
Siri Patterson (she/her/hers) is a junior journalism major with a minor in political science. This is her second year writing for The Appalachian.
Hayden Wittenborn
Hayden Wittenborn, Photographer
Hayden Wittenborn (she/her) is a junior Advertising major, Business minor, from Cary, N.C. This is her first year with The Appalachian.
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  • G

    Gary SkolnikFeb 8, 2024 at 9:06 am

    Interestingly, no outrage about the killing, raping and beheading of 1400 peaceful Israelis on Oct 7. No mentioning of the hostages that are kept in cages undergroud for almost 130 days with no medical attention. A call for a ceasefire is an invitation for another Oct 7 massacare but I guess Jewish blood is not a concern for these so-called “justice warriors”.

  • L

    Linda WeeksFeb 7, 2024 at 8:07 am

    Very proud of all of you. Silence is consent. Keep doing what you’re doing. Sending much love.

    • G

      GLFeb 8, 2024 at 7:26 am

      Release all hostages NOW
      Hamas leaders are TERRORISTS and should be charged for the war crimes they ordered on Oct 7th