At the open art space of Conspire, a woman in a red plaid jacket sits across a pile of hand-painted pro-Palestine signs. She plans to conduct her first self-led protest in downtown Greencastle in two hours.

Greencastle resident Sydney Allen was initially unaware of the Israel-Hamas war during its onset last Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on the Nova music festival and over 22 Israeli territories. But after witnessing gruesome videos of tortured Palestinians and massive destruction across the Gaza Strip, Allen wondered why there wasn’t more outrage and response across the Greencastle community. 

“It seemed like nobody was talking about [the Israel-Palestine war,] or nobody cared because it wasn’t directly affecting us,” Allen said. “I had been watching everything unfold on my phone for months and sharing information, but I felt that wasn’t enough. ”

This inspired Allen to organize “All Eyes on Rafah,” a self-led protest in front of the Putnam County Courthouse from March 2 to 9.

She gestures to the stack of cardboard signs with messages of “Free Palestine,” “No More Apartheid,” “Eyes on Rafah,” and “Why Are My Taxes Funding Genocide?”. Allen created these signs with the paint supplies from Conspire’s open art space, incorporating Palestinian flags, watermelons, and activist quotes into her designs.

“I have no clue how many people around here even know what’s going on,” Allen said. “It’s not gonna be nearly as big as [the protests] in Indianapolis or Fort Wayne. But it’ll still be impactful, especially for a place like Greencastle.”

Minutes later, a man and a woman enter from the back door, wearing carefully patterned keffiyehs from West Bank Apparel, a Palestinian-owned clothing store. They sit across the black art table, browsing through the hand-painted signs to prepare for their first protest.

The man, Toby, has lived in Greencastle since he was seven. He decided to join “All Eyes on Rafah” to amplify pro-Palestinian advocacies toward the Greencastle community.

“The actual raw footage of [the war and] just hearing the retelling is jarring enough,” Toby says, describing the horrifying videos of Palestinian children injured in local hospitals, infrastructures burned to the ground, and destructive bombs being dropped from the sky.

Toby also reflects on his hesitancy to share details about the Israel-Palestine war with his family.  

“I talk to my mom about it a little bit, but I haven't even dragged with my siblings and their friends just because my brother is dismissive of everything that we did,” he said. “The family dynamic is mainly the issue rather than lack of trying,” Toby said.

The woman beside him nods in agreement. Aleasha Greene moved from Clinton, Indiana, to downtown Greencastle in Dec. 2022. She decided to join the protest after discovering Allen’s “All Eyes on Rafah” Facebook event invitation. 

“Yesterday was actually the first time I felt sick to my stomach after seeing the picture of … [a] young [Palestinian] kid that got ran over by a tank,” Greene said. “I was not expecting to see that on my TikTok.” 

To boycott companies that allegedly fund Israeli war efforts, Greene decided to stop eating at McDonald’s, following the fast-food chain’s offering of thousands of free meals to Israel Defence Forces soldiers.

“[My mother] doesn't mind because McDonald's isn't exactly easy on her stomach. But she was extremely confused on why I didn't want to buy a gift card for my aunt for Christmas from McDonald's, because my aunt goes there for sweet tea every morning before work,” Greene said.

Eventually, the chimes from the back entrance ring as a young girl in a black cardigan and striped dress enters Conspire. Allen walks toward the door, helping the girl park her bike behind a metal sign holder.

This is Rose, daughter of Conspire owner J.D. Grove. Rose previously participated in protests across downtown Greencastle, by joining the 2020 “Black Lives Matter” protest at the Putnam County Courthouse and talking to courthouse officials on transgender rights and advocacies.

As Rose joins the group, Allen checks the time on her phone. It’s finally 2:00 p.m. 

Allen leads the group toward the front of the Putnam County Courthouse, spreading each protest sign across the adjacent sidewalk. Greene sits on the grass, with signs denouncing Israel’s military acts and calling for an immediate ceasefire. Rose clutches a sign with a quote from writer Audre Lorde: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

Minutes later, Conspire shop assistant Ella Dye Thomas approaches the courthouse square, clutching a cardboard sign of “30,000 murdered in Gaza.” Ella starts a chant of “Free, Free Palestine,” echoed by the rest of the group. Under the blazing sun, the five protestors alternate between chants of “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide,” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and “One, two, three, four, occupation no more!”

A woman inside a blue car raises her hand in support, as another driver in a red van honks his car horn in approval. DePauw students and Greencastle residents stop in their tracks to watch the scene. 

Eventually, a man in a black shirt and olive green pants walks up to the courthouse, picking up a sign of “Free Palestine.” 

“There is a moral atrocity going on and it's everybody's obligation to say something about it,” Greencastle resident Bruce Zink said. He previously joined the 2020 “Black Lives Matter” protest led by Kayce Kean, where he worked on logistical operations in collaboration with Greencastle residents and DePauw students.

Minutes later, he retrieves two water bottles for Ella and Toby. As Ella takes a sip of their water, Toby decides to lead the chants. With his Palestinian keffiyeh proudly wrapped around his neck, his voice reverberates across Washington Street, followed by the collective replies of his fellow protestors. 

As the chants continue, Allen looks back at the group with a confident smile across her face.

“My message to the Greencastle community is to hold love and compassion in your hearts for all living beings, [and to] be kind to one another as well as yourself,” Allen said. “Conduct research on the history of Israel and Palestine, don’t just follow what the media tells you. The truth will always come to light.”