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Pro-Palestinian protesters come face-to-face with Israeli Independence celebration in Chicago

Pro-Palestinian protesters turn out at Israel Independence Day celebration
Pro-Palestinian protesters turn out at Israel Independence Day celebration 02:59

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two sides of a global conflict came face-to-face in Chicago's Daley Plaza on Tuesday.

Israelis celebrated 76 years of independence, while Palestinians continued to protest the war with Israel that they framed as genocide. 

Chicago Police were on alert as the two sides met in the heart of the Loop on Tuesday. CPD sources said the department used the event to prepare for what is expected to be an even more heated Democratic National Convention this summer.

"We love Israel not because it's perfect, but because it is ours - the one and only Jewish state in the entire world," said Yinam Cohen, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest.

The background music for the flag-raising event celebrating Independence Day for Israel was the same music playing at the Oct. 7 Nova music festival in Israel. The festival was one of the many sites where Hamas massacred Israelis and took hundreds of hostages - including the grandson of Chicagoan Leah Polin.

"We will not stop until Hersh and the other 131 hostages are free and released from their hell," said Polin.

Hersh Goldberg Polin's image was released by Hamas two weeks ago.

"It was a shock. We weren't expecting it, and we were all together. We just sat on the floor in my little house in Florida, watched it, and cried—and tried to analyze how he looked. He had his hair shaved—now it's growing back. How's the arm that was blown off? We're analyzing every little thing," said Leah Polin, "but that's all we know."

The event drew a massive crowd. It highlighted Israel's past while drawing attention to present-day threats.

"It has been just seven months since October 7—the greatest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust," said Cohen.

Israel Independence Day draws supporters, pro-Palestinian protesters in Chicago 03:25

Opposite some metal barriers from the 1,000 people at the event, U.S. Palestinian Community Network representatives held a demonstration.

"I think I can speak for everyone behind me when I say all we want is peace for all people," said Amna Savic of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network.

They also want an acknowledgment that the creation of the Jewish state 76 years ago also meant 750,000 Palestinians were exiled from what is now Israel.

"They heard us loud and clear," said Hatem Abudayyeh of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network. "We were here to challenge them and say racists are not welcomed here."

Abudayyeh was asked if the pro-Palestinian protest Tuesday was a microcosm of what would be seen at the DNC this summer.

"Yeah, I think that's a good question," he said. "I think there's going to be a lot of passion then too."

Three months remain until Chicago is in the spotlight for the convention, and two sides continue to dig in over one war with no end in sight.

"We expect this is going to be the largest mobilization in the history of Chicago," said Abudayyeh.

A massive police presence at Daley Plaza cooled some heated exchanges. Ultimately, two sides of a global conflict came, chanted, celebrated, and left with no major incidents or arrests. 

Leaders on both sides say it was a good day.

Palestinian leaders were upset that Chicago Police blocked their use of sound equipment. But in the end, they said they were confident their voices were heard loud and clear.

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