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“No ceasefire, no votes”: tens of thousands take part in pro-Palestinian rally in Washington DC | Demonstration

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters marched through downtown Washington DC on Saturday in what organizers hoped would be the largest US demonstration of its kind since Israel began its bombing of Gaza following the attack on country by Hamas last month.

Crowds waved Palestinian flags, held posters and chanted slogans during the National March on Washington: Free Palestine, which took place alongside similar events in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

Organizers representing or supported by dozens of pro-Palestinian groups directed protesters toward Freedom Plaza in the nation’s capital before marching past the White House.

“Now is the time to stand with the besieged Palestinian people!” Gaza is bombarded hourly. Israel denies its population food, water and electricity. Tens of thousands more people are at risk of dying. We must act!’” the Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism (Response) coalition said on its website.

The march, alongside protests in New York, Seattle and other US cities, was part of a growing campaign to demand both a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict and an end to aid American and Western military to Israel. Demonstrations in support of Palestine also took place in London, Berlin, Paris, Ankara and Istanbul, with a similar message to Israel and supportive Western governments.

In London, television images showed large crowds staging protests blocking parts of the city center. The protesters, Reuters reported, held “Freedom for Palestine” signs and chanted “ceasefire now” and “by the thousands, by the millions, we are all Palestinians.”

Brian Becker, Answer’s director, told the crowd in Washington that U.S. public support for the Palestinian people had “entered an unprecedented new era.”

He drew a parallel with the anti-apartheid movement against South Africa four decades ago, saying that in its early days the US Congress still considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist. But seven years later, Mandela was president of South Africa.

Change, Becker said, is happening “in leaps and bounds,” but not based on what happens in Congress or the White House, but based on what happens in communities and on the streets.

“Change comes from us,” he said. “We are sending a strong message, a very strong message to Joe Biden: if you support genocide, we hold you guilty of genocide.”

“When you kill 10,000 Palestinians not because of what they did but because of who they are, when you commit genocide against a people and destroy a people in whole or in part, you are guilty of genocide and that’s why we went to the White House,” added Becker.

Signs of a divide between traditional supporters of the pro-Israel Democratic Party and younger voters, including Arab Americans, over the Israel-Gaza conflict were highlighted in a speech by Nihad Awad, national director of the Council of American-Islamic relations.

“The language that President Biden and his party understand is votes in the 2023 election, and our message is: no ceasefire, no votes,” Awad said, listing the states on which next year’s presidential election could be called. “No votes in Michigan, no votes in Arizona, no votes in Georgia, no votes in Nevada, no votes in Wisconsin, no votes in Pennsylvania.”

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According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, at least 9,257 people have been killed in the territory – including thousands of children -, 23,516 injured and hundreds of thousands more displaced since the start of the war. Israeli action almost a month ago. The Israeli attack was a response to a Hamas attack from Gaza that killed 1,400 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages. On both sides, most of the victims are civilians.

Jewish groups advised against counter-protesting or engaging with pro-Palestinian marchers. Jen Zwilling, of the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center, sent an email to members saying the pledge could “increase the potential for violence or anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Sponsors of the March for a Free Palestine included the Palestinian Youth Movement, the American Muslim Alliance, the National Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Palestinian Right of Return Coalition. It was also endorsed by the U.S.-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Palestinian American Council, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Speakers at the march included human rights lawyer Noura Erakat, Palestinian writer and activist Mohammed El-Kurd, and figures from Muslim and Arab organizations in the United States.

Becker earlier told the Washington Post that he hoped the rally would be “the largest show of support for the Palestinian people in American history.”

“People are mortified by this carnage,” he said. “And they are also mortified that the Biden administration has insisted there will be no cease-fire. »

Last week, Joe Biden called for a humanitarian “pause” in the bombing of Gaza but stopped short of demanding a ceasefire.

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