On Friday evening, dozens of people occupied public spaces in the Chicago Hilton hotel to protest the presence of an Israel lobby group and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference.
Alex Shams, a Palestine solidarity activist and graduate student at the University of Chicago, told The Electronic Intifada that protesters attempted to gain access to the room where a reception for the pro-Israel group A Wider Bridge was being held.
Shams said security personnel pulled a couple of the protesters into the room, but quickly shut the door on the rest.
Shams, citing a protest organizer, said that hotel security personnel shut down the reception.
But the activists marched throughout the hotel’s public areas, which were full of attendees of the Creating Change conference, Shams said.
Earlier, activist groups including Tarab-NYC, Black Lives Matter Chicago and Jewish Voice for Peace had objected to the inclusion of A Wider Bridge because of its role in pinkwashing – using LGBTQ issues to distract from Israel’s occupation and abuses of Palestinians.
The Chicago organization Brown People for Black Power canceled its scheduled workshop at Creating Change.
Shams said that large numbers of Chicago police came to the hotel, but as far as he knew there had been no arrests.
He said that protesters chanted against Israeli apartheid and pinkwashing and against the US government’s policies of mass deportation of immigrants implemented by ICE.
“As far as I could tell the majority of people were curious or receptive,” Shams said of onlookers. “Some joined our march or put up a fist to show support.”
Shams said one of the protesters’ chants was “We want our movement back.”
“This related to a feeling that the mainstream movement has sold out and is based on donor priorities and an NGO model that is not responsive to activists on the ground,” Shams added.
Shams and other activists tweeted images, video and accounts of the protest, often using the hashtag #cancelpinkwashing.