Arts and Culture

Minnesota artists create online petition for Gaza cease-fire

A man sings and plays guitar onstage
Jeremy Messersmith performing at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis. Messersmith created an online petition to call for a cease-fire in Gaza that has been signed by more than 2,000 Minnesota artists.
Todd Butcher | MPR

Minneapolis musician Jeremy Messersmith has created an online petition calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. He explained that he was tired of writing to his representatives.

Inspired by a similar petition from a national group of artists, Messersmith created a local version.

“It started just as an open letter,” he said. “So I forwarded it to maybe 20 of my friends who are who are artists.” 

He explained that he was tired of writing to his representatives.

“I'm writing to the president, I'm writing senators and I was like, there's there's got to be the best way,” he said. “[Artists] have many platforms and I was hoping that with a little solidarity maybe we could amplify the issue of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

The petition was signed by at least 2,000 artists since Wednesday, a much larger group than he expected. The musician isn’t sure how it circulated so widely.

“I thought it would just be some of my rock ‘n’ roll friends, or whatever,” Messersmith said. “And instead, I'm seeing, there's potters, there's fiber artists, there's painters, writers and poets.

Demonstrators across the country have demanded President Biden push for a cease-fire. Israeli troops control much of northern part of Gaza, where a major hospital is located, as part of their effort to destroy Hamas and free hostages.

Palestinian officials say 11,000 thousand Palestinians have been killed in the the wake of an attack by Hamas in early October that killed an estimated 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

One organization that forwarded the petition is Mizna, a St. Paul-based arts organization for Arab, Southwest Asian and North African artists. Messersmith’s wife forwarded the petition to the organization, which promoted it on their social media accounts. 

“I think the big response to this very grassroots call is a reflection of that heartbreak and devastation that people are feeling,” explained Lana Salah Barkawi, executive and artistic director of Mizna.

“Artists are the critical storytellers and processors of our society’s collective conscience. The overwhelming response to the MN Artists for Ceasefire letter is a signal of the widespread feeling from Minnesotans that there must be an immediate cease-fire and end to the killing and collective punishment of people in Gaza,” she said. “Minnesota artists know that liberation struggles are intertwined and it's not surprising that they are using their voices to refuse this brutality.”

Messersmith says that the petition has been signed by artists from almost every county in Minnesota.

“I got super emotional scrolling through the list yesterday and seeing a lot of friends who have known for and worked with for decades,” he said. “And, yeah, it just meant a lot to see them signing on.”

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.
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