The chant “bring Tariq home” could be heard as hundreds drove through the intersection of North 56th Street and East Fowler Avenue Saturday afternoon.
Family, friends and classmates gathered to rally support for 15-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir, a Tampa youth who is being held in Israeli custody. Tariq was handcuffed and beaten by Israeli security guards July 3 during a protest in Jerusalem.
“It brings me to tears to think about Tariq and how he is over there right now without anybody, without his family during this holy month,” Chaikirah Parker said. Parker’s son is Tariq's classmate.
“It’s not a religious issue. It’s not a national issue. This is simply a boy that we are trying to bring home,” Parker added.
Tariq and his family were visiting relatives in Israel during his summer vacation. While there, Tariq's cousin was kidnapped and burned to death.
Tariq joined family and friends Thursday to protest his cousin’s murder, when he was handcuffed and beaten. The family said cell phone video shows Tariq being beaten by Israeli security guards.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki released the following statement Saturday:
"We can confirm that Tariq Khdeir, an American citizen, is being held by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem. He was visited by an official from the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem today.
"We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly condemn any excessive use of force. We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.
"We reiterate our grave concern about the increasing violent incidents, and call on all sides to take steps to restore calm and prevent harm to innocents.”
Tariq’s parents remain in Israel, trying to come to terms with what happened.
"I'm infuriated," said Suha Abu Khdeir, Tariq's mother. "I'm just in a state of shock. I'm just speechless."
Salah Abu Khdeir, Tariq's father, wants his son to stay strong.
"I look and I see my son going out. I see him in the back and I know what he wears because he was with me. I started screaming 'Tariq, Tariq. I'm with you don't be scared, are you ok baba (son), are you sure you're ok,'" explained Salah Abu Khdeir.
Friends and family in Temple Terrace are praying for Tariq’s safe return to Tampa.
“I keep asking God to heal him and to make him come back safely,” Tariq's classmate Ryan Elfallah said.