TAMPA — Hundreds rallied near the University of South Florida on Friday night to protest President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that the United States will recognize the divided city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The protest was organized by CAIR Florida and started around 6 p.m. It lasted for about three hours.
"The president’s decision goes against international consensus," said Aida Mackic, interfaith and youth coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The crowd quickly grew to include college students, families and children, and many of the Muslim faith.
They chanted "Free Palestine" while standing along busy E Fowler Avenue near N 56th Street, waving signs and Palestinian flags. Tampa police officers stood by to make sure no one blocked traffic.
Others took to their cars and slowly drove up and down the roadway, waving Palestinian flags from windows and sunroofs.
"End all U.S. aid to Israel," said the yellow sign held aloft by Faten Alhamden, 40, a mother of two teens.
She said she was born in Palestine and then emigrated to the United States 15 years ago. She and her husband now run their own business in Tampa.
"I love America," she said. "I love the way I’m treated.
"But I love my homeland too, which is why I’m out here."
They came to America, she said, because they didn’t feel safe raising their daughter, then a year old, under Israeli occupation.
"It’s not safe over there," Alhamden said. "I wanted freedom. I have it here so I can protest."
One of the organizers was Ahmad Hussam Saadaldin, 27, an independent candidate for Florida House District 58. The district runs from Temple Terrace east to Plant City and four candidates will face each other in a special election set for Dec. 19.
"Trump is supposed to be a peacemaker, but this dumb decision will only provoke violence," said Saadaldin, who was born in Baghdad, Iraq, immigrated to the United States in 1991 and is a graduate of USF.
"This is a diverse protest. We have black and white, Muslim and Christian. We all want justice for Palestine."