Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters march across DC

Tens of thousands of supporters of Palestine marched across Washington, D.C., on Saturday to protest the Israeli war against Hamas and the bombing of Gaza, flooding the streets and demonstrating outside the White House as they called for a cease-fire and an end to U.S. support for Israel.

Protesters gathered at Freedom Plaza on Saturday afternoon and rallied around speakers who cried out against what they called a genocide in Gaza. 

Among the speakers was the rapper Macklemore, who told thousands of pro-Palestinian supporters he was “not afraid” to speak out against the war.

“We’ve been told to just be complicit to protect our careers, to protect our interests — and I’m not going to do it anymore,” Macklemore said atop a stage in Freedom Plaza to a crowd of cheering protesters. “I know enough that this is a genocide.”

Protesters banged drums, blew trumpets, flew Palestine’s flag and stormed across D.C. to speak out against the war. 

They also held up signs that called for no more U.S. support for Israel and an end to the bombs falling over Gaza, which have killed more than 9,000 people.

Mohamad Ali, 35, traveled all the way from Boston, Mass., to attend the rally. Ali said he was upset about the “killing of children” and called for an immediate ceasefire.

“I look at Israel as an occupying entity that’s come over and took over the land of the Palestinian people,” Ali said. 

Israel is fighting a major war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which launched a surprise attack on Oct. 7 and killed more than 1,400 Israelis while taking more than 200 hostages.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to completely destroy Hamas in retaliation while rejecting calls for cease-fires. The U.S. wants to protect innocent Palestinians and get more aid into Gaza but also says Israel has a right to defend itself.

The Saturday rally saw thousands of Palestinian supporters calling out Biden by name, accusing him of genocide just outside the White House and waving profanity-laced signs attacking his support for Israel.

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A protestor in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 4. (Brad Dress)

Anne Mustafa, of Montgomery County, Md., called for an immediate cease-fire and a greater flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

Mustafa, who is of Palestinian heritage, said the U.S. should cut further aid to Israel and that the Biden administration is doing a “terrible” job with the ongoing conflict. 

“The majority of the people who voted for President Biden are not even supportive of what’s happening right now,” she said. “They don’t want any more aid to be going to Israel but it continues to happen.”

Mustafa, however, strongly condemned Hamas and said she does not support the killing of innocent civilians no matter who is behind it.

“I do not support any form of terrorism,” Mustafa said. “I support only humanitarian causes.” 

The U.S. is supporting Israel with air defense munitions and is in close contact with Israeli officials. And Congress is now working to pass emergency assistance to support Israel in the war. The House this week cleared a $14.3 billion package for Israel.

Many of the pro-Palestinian supporters on Saturday said they were fed up with U.S. support for Israel and are angry that a two-state solution, in which both Israel and Palestine would have a country, has not seen the light of day.

Israel was created in 1948, after World War II, which displaced the Palestinian people, though Palestine rejected the solution for two states and allied with Arab countries that fought several wars against Israel. 

The issue has since been a lightning rod across the world, with the Arab world condemning Israel’s occupation and Israel and Jewish supporters protesting against extremist groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

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Pro-Palestinian protestors. (Brad Dress)

Faisal Alkhatib, 19, of Norfolk, Va., said he is of Palestinian heritage and does not believe in an Israeli state “at the expense of people’s lives and lands.” 

“Why should a state be built on people’s lands?” he said. “It shouldn’t have been taken away in the first place.”

Alkhatib said the thousands of people who came out to support Palestine is an encouraging sign. But he said the war in Gaza was not one about religion and that it should be “simple” to come out and advocate for an end to the mass killing of people.

“All of humanity should come out,” he said. “Not for being Muslim, not for being Christian, not for being Jewish, not for being Palestinian but for being” a human.

The war is expected to get deadlier as Israeli forces have surrounded Gaza City and are beginning incursions into the dense urban area, the stronghold of Hamas.

Many rallygoers also spoke out Saturday against what they called U.S. support for war and conflict across the world.

Taliba Rashid, who traveled from Philadelphia, Pa., to attend the rally, marched to take a stand not just for Palestine but for “oppressed people everywhere.”

Rashid, a retired customer service representative, said she would not vote for Biden in 2024 because of the Israel-Hamas war.

“This is not a conflict, this is a genocide,” Rashid said. What [Biden] needs to understand is whether [there is a] ceasefire or not, it’s a wrap for him and the whole Democratic Party.”

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