Thousands of protesters chanting “ceasefire now” and demanding an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Gaza marched on Market Street in San Francisco on Saturday, as part of what was billed as an “International Day of Solidarity with Palestinians” which saw anti-war protests across the country.
Before the march, protesters gathered under the London plane trees lining the Civic Center Plaza in front of City Hall, waving Palestinian flags and carrying signs reading “End Apartheid” and “Resistance is justified when people are busy.”
“Children are dying every day, and I feel like this goes beyond the centuries-old conflict between Israel and Palestine,” said Rewina Beshue, 30, who lives in San Francisco and whose family in Ethiopia has witnessed years of sectarian violence. “I see all the kids dying and I just want to raise more awareness about it.”
The protest took place nearly a month after Hamas militants’ brutal October 7 attack on civilians and soldiers in southern Israel left more than 1,400 people dead. Hundreds of other people were taken hostage. Israel has since bombed Gaza from the air and launched a brutal invasion of Israeli-occupied territory, leading to the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and raising global fears of a protracted humanitarian crisis.
Calls for action around the Bay Area have grown as violence continues in Gaza. Protesters at the Port of Oakland on Friday boarded a government ship they believed was carrying military equipment, a claim that could not immediately be verified. A Bay Area News Group photographer saw at least three people arrested after climbing a ladder on the side of the ship. No arrests were immediately announced by the U.S. Coast Guard, which said the incident was still under investigation.
Protesters joined pro-Palestinian rallies across the country on Saturday, including in Washington DC, where about 30,000 people were expected to march in front of the White House to demand that the United States stop sending military aid to Israel.
At Civic Center Plaza, Richmond resident George Marx, 72, holding a sign adorned with a heart surrounding a Palestinian flag, called for an end to U.S. support for Israel’s war effort.
“I am Jewish. I am not ashamed of being Jewish, but I am ashamed of what is done in my name as a Jew, as an American and as a human being,” said Marx.
More than 9,400 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including more than 3,900 Palestinian children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israeli officials have questioned the accuracy of the death toll and say many of the casualties are the result of use by Hamas – which the United States has designated a terrorist group and which has de facto controlled Gaza since 2007 – civilians as “human shields”. and placing military targets in or near hospitals, schools and other civilian buildings.
Calls for a ceasefire, or at least a pause in fighting to allow desperately needed humanitarian aid, have intensified in recent days as devastating scenes of dead bodies and blocks of rubble have been shared in the whole world. Since the start of the siege, Israel has restricted the entry of food and water into the territory and cut off electricity and communications.
“I don’t think a ceasefire is enough,” said protester Wahid Noor, 31. “Even if we see a ceasefire, what will happen next? Will they start again?
Israeli officials have refused to consider a ceasefire until all hostages are freed. It was also said that suspending the invasion could allow Hamas fighters to regroup and raised concerns that the militants could siphon off fuel and other aid for military purposes.
Noor, who left Afghanistan before the US invasion following the September 11 attacks, sees parallels between the current war and the twenty-year conflict in his home country.
“This is simply politics destroying civilian lives,” he said.