December 9, 2023

For at some point in Washington, Palestinian flags outnumbered American flags on Pennsylvania Avenue as half of what’s believed to be the most important pro-Palestinian demonstration in US historical past.

Some protesters led chants whereas others sat in entrance of the White Home throughout a nationwide march for Palestine in Washington, DC. [Laura Albast for The New Arab]

For at some point in Washington, Palestinian flags outnumbered American flags on Pennsylvania Avenue, as tens of hundreds of demonstrators descended on the US capital in what’s believed to be the most important pro-Palestinian demonstration in US historical past.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, protesters gathered to demand a ceasefire of Israel’s practically month-long assault on Gaza. The navy marketing campaign – which has to this point killed virtually 10,000 Palestinians – has been steady for the reason that shock assault by Hamas on 7 October that killed greater than 1,400 Israelis.

Earlier than the official begin of the demonstration, it was clear it might be substantial. Hours earlier than the gathering at Freedom Plaza (now nicknamed by protesters as Gaza Plaza) in downtown Washington, DC, protesters might be seen with their indicators, keffiyehs, embroidered garments, and flags all through the town and suburbs; chartered buses from totally different states lined the streets downtown; and a number of vehicles parked alongside the protest route had been embellished with Palestinian symbols.

As the gang grew in numbers at Freedom Plaza, their chants and drumbeats might be heard from blocks away.
One after the other, the audio system took the stage, defiantly insisting that they’d not cease demonstrating till a ceasefire was reached.

Among the many most adamant was Nihad Awad, government director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. Talking in his private capability as a Palestinian American, he warned that US President Joe Biden might lose votes in 2024 if he didn’t stress Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order a ceasefire.

“The language that President Biden and his social gathering perceive is the language of votes within the 2023 elections and our message is: No cease-fire, no votes,” mentioned Awad to a cheering crowd, noting that 66 % of People help a ceasefire.

“No votes in Michigan, no votes in Arizona, no votes in Georgia, no votes in Nevada, no votes in Wisconsin, no votes in Pennsylvania,” he mentioned, naming the swing states that Biden received in 2020, beginning with Michigan, the US state with the best proportions of Arabs and Muslims.

He mentioned he was advised that voters have quick recollections and that they’d neglect by subsequent November. However he warned that would not occur, as led a chant saying, “In November, we bear in mind.”

The gang continued to chant: “Free Palestine”; “Ceasefire now”; “From the river to the ocean Palestine will probably be free”; “From Palestine to Mexico, the border partitions have gotten to go”; and “Biden, Biden, you may’t cover! We cost you with genocide!”

Throughout the ocean of flags and keffiyehs, many attendees represented themselves and their affiliations via their indicators. One signal learn ‘Queers for Gaza’, whereas one other learn ‘Jews demand a ceasefire’. Some held indicators representing their state or metropolis, with one studying ‘Michigan for Palestinians’, and one other studying ‘Baltimore for Palestinians’.

Ed Trager, a healthcare employee, who had traveled to Washington on a chartered bus from Michigan, had a suggestion for the place his tax {dollars} ought to go. “As an alternative of bombing hospitals and colleges, they need to be constructing them,” he advised The New Arab.

There have been sturdy Black and Native American contingencies, and Black distributors promoting T-shirts studying: Palestinian Lives Matter, utilizing the identical brand because the Black Lives Matter T-shirt. A Black speaker from the state of Georgia mentioned their native wrestle to close down plans for a police coaching compound nicknamed Cop Metropolis. He additionally introduced up the follow of US legislation enforcement touring to Israel for coaching. 

A brief stroll away from Freedom Plaza, close to the Washington Monument, the Mexican neighborhood had arrange a show for Day of the Lifeless. Listed on their publicly displayed schedule of occasions was a second of silence for Palestinians; a show with their conventional marigold flowers included a keffiyeh; and a big white board featured the enduring sketch of the Palestinian boy Handala, and this time he had a Native American sister drawn in the identical type.

It took all the crowd no less than two hours to make the 10-minute stroll from Freedom Plaza to the White Home, a testomony to the excessive turn-out, with the numbers tough to gage, as contributors continued to hitch the demonstration nicely into the night.

Some seemed to be becoming a member of the march spontaneously. One lady, carrying her medical scrubs and a backpack, as if she’s simply completed her shift at a close-by hospital, joined the march halfway, yelling as she began strolling, “Does anybody want a medic?”

Among the many protesters that had packed into the entrance of the White Home was Mohammad Lafi, who had traveled with a bunch of Arab associates from North Carolina.

“I’ve household in Palestine, and Palestinians have been going through persecution and genocide for over 75 years. I do not even know the place to start to be trustworthy with you,” he advised TNA.

“We hope we are able to increase consciousness and attain some hearts and minds which may be listening to us, and hopefully get some folks off their butts in Washington in order that they might help with the ceasefire,” he mentioned.

His pal, Walid Bouche, whose household is from Algeria, mentioned: “They’re attempting to erase and destroy the Palestinian tradition. We’re right here to say Palestine will at all times be right here.”

Because the solar set, and marchers continued to crowd into the walkway in entrance of the White Home, a big group sat down on the bottom in protest. Others marched in circles. As night time fell, many held up their telephone flashlights for gentle. 

Some shaped dance circles, as others danced to the rhythm of the roaring chants. Protest leaders mentioned they needed to be loud sufficient for the US administration to listen to them. The information, nonetheless, had reported that the Bidens had been away on trip for the weekend in Delaware. 

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