On the night of July 22, Cedar City resident Erin Fletcher said that she and several friends spent three hours writing the names and ages of 627 Palestinian casualties in chalk on the Main Street sidewalk outside of city hall. She said they lit a candle for each name written on the ground and placed it in a paper cup with sand at the bottom to help weight it to the ground.
“We are trying to appeal to the ‘human’ in us, because it’s a human rights issue,” she said. “But how can you feel that those humans have rights outside of politics, because you don’t see them as humans – I mean, we just see them as numbers.
“So we didn’t want these 627 people to be considered collateral damage, or just letters on a page, we wanted them to each have a face,” she added.
The act of writing out so many names was incredibly profound Fletcher said. She said that all 627 names on the list are people who have died just since July 8, and that many of them were women, children and elders – in some cases, entire families.
“We wanted people to see it and go, ‘Look at that; that was a 1-year-old, that could’ve been my 1-year-old,’” Fletcher said.
Patrick Fletcher, Erin’s husband, said the list they used came from a website called Global Research, found at http://www.globalresearch.ca. The list includes not just the names and ages of the civilian casualties, but also information about how and where they died.
Writing each name by hand on the ground had such a lasting impact, that Patrick said he doesn’t believe he will ever forget the experience. He said that there was a light bulb moment of connectivity for him when he was writing the names of four young boys in particular.
Just the day before, Patrick said he was watching a YouTube video of four boys who were killed on the beach of Gaza, and suddenly he realized he was writing their names on the ground.
“I look back at the list and it says ‘died on a beach in Gaza, missile strike,’ and there’s four of them,” he said, “Then I’m like ‘oh my gosh, I saw this YouTube video yesterday of four boys getting killed on a beach in Gaza and now I am writing their names.’”
While they were there, the Fletcher's said they were able to raise awareness, because several people stopped to ask what they were doing.
Erin said a group of teenagers stopped and helped write names for a while, asking questions and soaking up the new information. She said they even left for a while and then came back to help some more later that night.
Patrick said he spoke to a father and daughter visiting Cedar City from China to tour Southern Utah University. He said he was surprised to learn that neither the father, nor the daughter, had ever heard of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“They had never heard of Palestine, Israel, Gaza, the West Bank – none of it,” he said. “So, here I am with them having maybe a 20 percent understanding of English, and I’m trying to explain the Israel Palestine conflict, and how the United States fits in.”
The couple agreed that the only frustrating part about the entire demonstration was that all of the names were washed away early Wednesday morning before City Hall was even open.
City officials said they were unaware that anything had even happened on the night of July 22, and that to the best of their knowledge no one was told to clean up the writing. They said it was possible that the sprinklers had washed it away early that morning before anyone even saw it.
Erin said that her family and friends plan to continue writing names every week until the conflict ends, or innocent lives are no longer an acceptable piece of collateral damage. She said she was horrified to learn that in the past week, the number of casualties has nearly doubled – with 78 names added on Saturday, a day where there was supposed to be a ceasefire.
Rain, or shine; she said they would gather again tonight on the west side of downtown Main Street at 6 p.m. to light a candle for each victim and write the – now 1,100 names – on the sidewalk.
According to the International Middle East Media Center, found at http://www.imemc.org, there are currently 985 casualties confirmed and identified, but the total was currently estimated to be over 1,100 victims.
Cedar City Manager Rick Holman said that the city has no position on the issue itself, but that he personally applauds citizens taking action and raising awareness about issues that impassion them. He said he fully supports the first amendment and sees nothing wrong with the peaceful activism shown by the Fletcher’s and their friends.
Although, Holman warned, there is a city ordinance that requires all roadways and walkways to remain open to traffic at all times. He said if the flow of traffic were interrupted at all, there would be a fine.
Erin said she is aware of the ordinance and that their group consciously works to maintain an appropriate space for travelers to walk through.