COLUMBIA — George Smith brought an envelope to the Columbia Post Office on Thursday afternoon, but it wasn’t for the mailbox.
The manila envelope had the words “Free Gaza” scrawled across it in pen, and it contained Smith's statement on the situation in that region. He read it to about a dozen protesters from various Columbia peace organizations.
The protestors had gathered in front of the post office and marched to Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen. Roy Blunt’s offices in response to Greece’s denial of a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid items to the Gaza strip.
“We're here to tell them we want a new foreign policy that takes a fair and balanced approach to Israel and Palestine,” said human rights activist Jean Blackwood.
Neither McCaskill nor Blunt spoke directly with the protestors, but the senators' field representatives said they would relay the protestors' message.
According to The Associated Press, “Israel says it imposed the blockade in 2007 to stop weapons reaching Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.”
Another flotilla departed in May 2010 attempting to reach Gaza but was attacked by Israel.
The protesters' main goal was to urge U.S. legislative officials to support the end of the Israeli blockade.
“The material aid that’s part of the flotilla is entirely symbolic," said Smith, an MU biology professor and a member of Congregation Beth Shalom. "The idea is to break the siege to shame Israel into stopping the siege of Gaza.”
“Here in Columbia, we want to join folks around the world by calling attention to this ongoing violation of international law by Israel and the U.S. and to call for humane treatment of our brothers and sisters in Gaza,” said Jeff Stack, coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation.