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Protesters close Chicago Apple Store over Palestinian employee firing

A small group of demonstrators disrupted the Lincoln Park Apple Store in Chicago on Saturday to protest Apple's use of labor in Africa and its disciplining of at least one employee wearing pro-Palestinian clothing items.

The protest, which took place Saturday, was peaceful but resulted in the store closing early, with a heavy police presence afterwards. A group called Apples4Ceasefire staged the protest, alleging that a Palestinian employee at the store was wrongly terminated for wearing accessories supporting the Palestinian people, including the traditional keffiyeh.

The group, which claims some 300 members who say they are current or former Apple employees, said the firing at the Lincoln Park store was not an isolated incident.

"In fact, anyone who has dared to express support of the Palestinian people in the form of kaffiyehs, pins, bracelets, or clothing, has been actioned against under the guise of breaking business conduct' and creating a harmful environment," the letter said.

The protest was sparked by the firing of former Lincoln Park store employee Madly (pronounced "Medley") Espinoza, who specifically asked Apple managers if it was allowed to wear a keffiyeh at work, and received permission to do so. As the conflict in Gaza dragged on, she was asked not to wear it anymore.

Espinoza switched to wearing pro-Palestinian jewelry, again after getting permission from managers, along with some 40 other employees who wore similar accessories. She was later fired and the others reprimanded, and told her actions were "too political."

The open letter from the group, titled Apples4Ceasefire, claims it is disappointed and in shock at "the lack of care and understanding this company has given the Palestinian community, not only abroad suffering in Gaza, but also twards our own team members and anyone who supports them within our stores and offices."

In addition to protesting the firing of the employee, the dozen or so protesters in the store also demanded that Apple leave the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where some rare earth and other materials are mined. The group released a letter asking CEO Tim Cook to acknowledge the deaths of civilians in Gaza, as he did in a letter to employees about Israeli deaths after the initial Hamas attack.

A group of Google employees have also protested against the search giant's decision to fund an Israeli tech conference held last month in New York. One Google Cloud engineer was fired by the company after disrupting a talk at the event.