Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters flooded the streets of Washington D.C. today to decry Israel’s ongoing massacre of civilians in Gaza and to call for an end to the bombing and the occupation of Palestine. The rally and march, which included upwards of 50,000 people, was by far the largest protest since Israel began its assault on Gaza early last month, and may be the biggest Pro-Palestinian demonstration in U.S. history.
The stretch of road from the Capitol Building to Freedom Plaza was packed, and still people kept joining with signs reading “Free Palestine” and “From the River to the Sea.” Other signs communicated support from specific oppressed groups and working class sectors, including Haitians, South Asians, trans women, nurses, and teachers. There were many, many signs indicating the large Jewish support for the movement. Everywhere there were keffiyehs and Palestinian flags. In the capital of the U.S. empire, thousands and thousands stood with Palestine. As the prominent Palestinian activist, Dr. Noura Erekat put it in her speech, “We are all here to charge this administration with genocide.”
Despite the propaganda and fake news being presented by the mainstream media and the U.S. regime, which has tried to silence the movement by equating all support for Palestine as support for Hamas and all criticism of Israel as antisemitic; and despite the increased surveillance and repression of Palestinian activists around the world, the protests against Israel are only getting bigger. From Los Angeles and Chicago, to Detroit and New York City, marches have been drawing thousands and even tens of thousands of people behind the call for a ceasefire as a way to end the current bombing of Gaza. Other protesters went well beyond the call for a ceasefire, with some carrying signs that read: “end the occupation.”
Energized by the increasing displays of solidarity, many activists are also advocating an end to Israeli apartheid and the occupation of Palestine and are demanding that the U.S. cease all military and economic aid to Israel. Some of the chants at the rally, including “We say no Genocide Joe,” “Biden Biden you can’t hide/ we charge you with genocide,” and “Israel bombs, USA pays, how many kids did you kill today,” directly called attention to the role of U.S. imperialism and its complicity in the destruction of Gaza and the occupation of Palestinian land.
Following the speeches, the tens of thousands of protesters took the streets. With drums and chants, with rage and jubilation, block after block of D.C. was filled with calls for justice and freedom for Palestine. There was a feeling in the air that imperialism could actually be defeated.
The march also brought together a diverse range of people and groups from across the country, many who had come from states several hundreds or thousands of miles away. There were different contingents reflective of the various sectors of the movement. These included a queer contingent, a climate justice contingent, and a labor contingent, to name a few. While many of the initial organizations to co-sponsor the march are Palestinian-led groups, including Palestinian Youth Movement, National Students for Justice in Palestine, and Al-Awda, this march reflected the diversity of the movement which has been uniting Palestinians, Arabs, Jews, Black people, white people, Latin Americans, Asians, and all sectors of the working class and oppressed. The role of the anti-Zionist Jewish vanguard in the movement has been especially important for showing that, despite what the imperialists and Zionists claim, anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.
The movement, as many of the signs at today’s protests show, has also been successful at highlighting the brutal role of U.S. imperialism. For this reason, many writers and intellectuals are characterizing it as the largest anti-war/anti-imperialist movement since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Perhaps the most clear example of the growing opposition not just to Israel, but to U.S. imperialism is the protest in Oakland, which took place the day before the march, where activists directly blocked a U.S. Navy ship which was set to deliver arms to Israel. Other examples of the connection being made between Israel’s violence and U.S. imperialism are chants such as “Israel bombs! US pays! How many kids did you kill today!” and “From Palestine to the Philippines, stop the U.S. war machine!”
It is no wonder that some of Biden’s top advisors have begun warning the president that the administration only has a matter of weeks before the U.S. support for Israel’s campaign becomes untenable. Despite intense repression of the pro-Palestine movement from the state and private institutions, a majority of Americans across the political spectrum support a ceasefire. A large amount of the Arab American electorate — an important base for the Democrats and Biden’s hope for re-election — are saying they will not vote for Biden. This was indicated at the march with signs with slogans “No Biden 2024.” Even within the U.S. regime, staffers in Congress and institutions of imperialist soft power like the State Department and USAID are dissenting from the Biden administration’s unflinching support for Israel. In short, this march comes during a huge crisis for the U.S. regime.
The march ended outside the White House. Even as the crowd near the fortress like fence to the White House packed in tighter, the chants got more energetic. The Palestinian flags kept waving. Leaving the area through the less condensed streets, children here and there would yell “Free free free Palestine,” and people around would chant back.
Left Voice has been proudly mobilizing as part of the pro-Palestinian movement and in opposition to the McCarthyist campaign being waged against pro-Palestinian activists. We fight against islamophobia, antisemitism and all kinds of bigotry and racism. We demand an end to the airstrikes and bombing of Gaza. We demand an end to all U.S. aid to Israel, and we denounce the imperialist character of both parties, Republicans and Democrats alike. Within the movement, we fight for a free socialist Palestine where Jews, Arabs, and all ethnicities have equal rights and can live in peace, free from imperialism and Zionism.