Dozens of Pro-Palestinian demonstrators protested outside the Puma store at Somerville's Assembly Row on Black Friday, one of the nation’s busiest shopping days.

The event came as the nation of Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant political group that governs within the Gaza Strip, entered into a four-day pause in the conflict that's raged since last month. 

The two sides exchanged hostages as part of the temporary cease-fire.

Jason Greenberg of Needham was hoping that three of his relatives would be among those released. His cousin Ofer Kalderon and Ofer's children, 16 year old Sahar and 12 year old Erez, have been held hostage by Hamas since last month. Two other relatives, 80 year old Carmela Dan and 13 year old Noya Dan, were found dead soon after the October 7th attack in southern Israel. But Greenberg says that late Thursday night, he got word that the Kalderons would not be coming out of captivity. Nevertheless, he's thrilled for those who are being released.

Four photographs, side by side, of smiling children and adults
Jason Greenberg’s relatives Ofer Kalderon, Sahar Kalderon, Erez Kalderon, Noya Dan, and Carmela Dan. Noya and Carmela died last month after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. The Kalderons are being held hostage.
Photos courtesy of Jason Greenberg

"I am elated for those families that are able to welcome their loved ones home," said Greenberg. "I just hope that in the coming days and weeks all of the rest of the hostages will be able to come out."

Greenberg said that he respects the free speech rights of pro-Palestinian demonstrators. But he laid blame for the violence in Gaza at the feet of Hamas, who he feels have been using innocent Palestinians as pawns.

"I hope that these protesters are differentiating between those who are simply caught up in this conflict as non-combatant civilians and who should be supported on whatever side is participating in this, whether it's Israeli or Palestinian."

The local protest was part of a national campaign to diminish sales for companies with financial ties to Israel. Puma, according to a company statement, supplies the Israeli National soccer teams with branded equipment to compete in international competitions.

“PUMA hopes this violent conflict will end soon and that all people living the region will be safe and live in peace,” the company statement said.

Ki-jana Carter, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation who helped coordinate Friday’s demonstration, said protesters had already turned away dozens of people by mid-morning.

“We want to make sure they don’t have a record sales day today. We’re asking people not to walk into the store and buy things,” he said in an interview with GBH News.

Carter characterized Israel’s part in the conflict as a “genocide.”

“As long as that’s happening, we don’t want to have business as usual go on. We want to show that we are not going to allow either our government, the government that speaks in our name, or companies like Puma to make their record profits.”

Arun Anbu, a local student who was out shopping with friends, was one of several people who decided against going into the Puma store after being intercepted by protesters who shared their stance. 

“I can just purchase different brands,” he told GBH News after walking away from the store.

Anbu said while he doesn’t know much about the Israel-Hamas conflict and holds a “neutral stance” regarding the war, “somebody coming down to the streets and protesting and fighting for something, it takes a lot of courage and determination, so I feel, let me just extend my smallest support to them.”

A spokesperson for Puma said in a statement Friday that the company “does not have any other official connection or association with any other Israeli Soccer club team – neither in mainland Israel or in settlements,” beyond the branded equipment it supplies to the Israeli National soccer teams to compete in international competitions.

“PUMA does not support soccer teams in settlements nor does its Israeli distributor have branches in settlements… PUMA continues to support and outfit athletes from all backgrounds, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation and national origin. As a brand concerned only with the power that Sport has to bring people together, PUMA does not support any political direction, political parties or governments. We welcome the opportunity to help everyone compete in sports no matter who they are or where they are from.”