More than 50 people supporting Israel placed 240 pairs of shoes outside the federal courthouse in downtown Spokane Tuesday afternoon to represent the hostages who continue to be held by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip.
Two leaders of the demonstration read aloud each name, surrounded by blue and white balloons, which were tied to each shoelace and placed in a circle. The demonstration took place at the same time as the rally in support of Israel in Washington, D.C., which drew tens of thousands.
Juliet Barenti, who helped organize the event so that it dovetailed with the national demonstration, is part of the Spokane Jewish community.
“Specifically, this event is to make sure people don’t forget about the Hamas hostages,” Barenti said. “We put photos of the hostages around downtown, but people tore them down. So now we are doing this.”
Barenti said she has cousins in Israel who were there during the attacks on Oct. 7. Her family’s home was set on fire with three children inside, she said.
“Now they have no home to go back to.”
Israel is fighting for survival, she said, but others are not excluded from violence: “Palestinians are suffering tremendously, too.”
“Hamas is terrorizing them just as they are terrorizing Israelis,” she said. “They kidnap Muslims, foreign workers, babies.”
Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle was also in attendance at the demonstration on Tuesday. The council had previously adopted a resolution on Oct. 9 condemning Hamas and affirming Israel’s right to “exist and defend itself.”
Now, Bingle said, the City Council is considering adopting a resolution to call for a cease-fire in the war. He said he opposes that idea.
“If someone came to us after 9/11 and said we needed to have a cease-fire with the Taliban, I think we would tell them to get out of our business,” he said. “I think it’s offensive to call for a cease-fire.”
More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war, the Associated Press reported, and at least 1,200 Israelis have been killed.