Israel rally draws a crowd at Gondola Plaza, as well as several ceasefire protesters
About two hundred people showed up to the Gondola Plaza in downtown Aspen on November 9th for an event in support of Israel in the wake of the October 7th attack by Hamas.
They were joined by a small group who showed up to call for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas, describing the mounting deaths in the region — over 10,000 Palestinians and 1000 Israelis — as abhorrent.
Reporter Caroline Llanes went to the event, and spoke with local All Things Considered host Halle Zander while she was there.
Editor’s note: this transcript has been edited for clarity.
Halle Zander: On the phone, I have Caroline Llanes, who's at Gondola Plaza right now. Hi, Caroline.
Caroline Llanes: Hi, Halle.
Zander: So, first of all, this is not the first time Aspen city councilors have weighed in on the situation in Israel and Palestine. Tell me about last week's city council discussion regarding the Israeli and Ukrainian flags.
Llanes: Yes. So as you say, this discussion actually started over a year ago when the city council made the call to fly the Ukrainian flag at the Armory building, the old city hall. And then last week, City Councilor Bill Guth introduced a motion to fly the Israeli flag alongside it, saying that he felt it would be hypocritical to fly one flag without the other. Without getting too much into it, these are two different geopolitical situations. It's apples and oranges.
But Council made the decision to not fly either flag, and Mayor Torre said during that meeting that he would actually be in favor of something more substantial to show his support for the Jewish community and for Israel. And so that is kind of how we got to this event today, although this was not organized by the city. This was organized by the Aspen Jewish Community Center. Just to clarify.
Zander: All right. And now we have this event. Originally, we thought it was just in support of Jewish people worldwide, but now it's transitioned specifically to support Israel. What prompted this change, do you know?
Llanes: Yeah. So the organizers didn't really get into that. I will say the Aspen Daily News originally reported that this was in support of the Jewish community worldwide. But all the fliers that have been circulating on social media and in a paper form have said in support of Israel.
And for the speakers here, there has definitely kind of been a connection of the two, that support for Israel is support for Jewish people worldwide. One speaker said that Israel is the Jewish homeland and so support for Israel translates to support for the Jewish community worldwide. So yeah, I'm not really sure what changed in the messaging of this specific event, but yeah, definitely there's a lot of people who are here in support of the hostages and support of Israel and plenty of people who came to be in solidarity with the Jewish community as well.
Zander: All right. So you're on the ground right now. What are you seeing at the Gondola Plaza? What's the situation like?
Llanes: Yes, this is an event with a pretty large turnout. I would say there's probably over 200 people who came and they have set banquet style tables with a plate and a piece of bread and a rose to represent every hostage that was taken on October 7th. There's screens playing videos, there's music. I would say that the atmosphere is solemn, but also jovial. People are milling about. They're talking to each other. And yeah, everyone has already spoken. A few rabbis have said some prayers. Definitely a contemplative event. People of all ages here, and Jewish and non-Jewish like for sure.
Zander: And it's my understanding that there's also a group there in support of a cease fire. Are they visible? Have you spoken to any of them?
Llanes: I have, yes, and they are visible. It's a much smaller group. There's probably about five or six there right now holding signs. And they've kept sort of a respectful distance. There's an Aspen Police Department presence here. They've set up some barricades to kind of protect this event from traffic, you know, kind of monitoring, making sure cars don't hit an errant pedestrian. But yeah, so they've kind of stayed behind that barricade and have mostly just been holding their signs. One says, "we grieve with Israel, we grieve with Palestine. We want an end to the violence." They're calling a ceasefire. Now, one sign says, asking for elected (officials) to bring an end to the violence and to end this war effectively, because the U.S. has a great deal of influence. And they said, you know, we're not here to belittle this event. We are really here just to express that this violence is abhorrent and we want our elected (officials) to act on our behalf and in support of peace in the region.
Zander: All right. Got it. And we have just about 30 seconds left here. So have these two groups interacted at all? Has there been any dialog or engagement?
Llanes: So, sometimes people walk by the ceasefire folks and they ask questions. They have a conversation. But really, there hasn't been too much engagement. This has been a very peaceful event, I think, on both sides. And I don't think anyone is wanting to get in anyone's way from either group.
Zander: All right. Well, thank you, Caroline, for your reporting today. We appreciate it.
Llanes: Thank you, Halle.