Thousands of protesters filled the streets of Washington and other cities across America on Saturday to protest the scope and scale of Israel’s retaliation in Gaza for last month’s terror attack by Hamas.
Saturday’s marches, organized in cities including New York, Nashville, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and San Francisco, expanded a series of resounding calls for a ceasefire and lifting of the siege, after massive demonstrations before a week in Asian and European capitals.
Most Americans express their support for Israel in its fight against Hamas, but as Israel escalates attacks on Gaza, US support for Palestinian civilians has also increased.
In a poll released by Quinnipiac University on Thursday, 84 percent of voters said they were concerned that the United States would be drawn militarily into the conflict in the Middle East. However, a 51% majority supported sending more military aid to Israel for its campaign against Hamas, and 71% supported humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Saturday’s protests reflected the constellation of causes and groups long associated with Palestinian politics, including student organizations, labor unions and anti-war campaigns.
In Washington, the number of attendees was not clear Saturday afternoon, but the streets filled with protesters and the crowd was thick. Some of the rally venues were noisy, while others were quieter.
At one point, a man wearing a Palestinian flag as a cape climbed a lamppost and shouted: “Free, free Palestine!” to drumbeats below. A more sedate section of protesters sat quietly at the World War I Memorial, holding signs and Palestinian flags and facing Freedom Square, where shouting and cheering abounded.
Some protesters on the fringes of the demonstration sat on a ledge outside the White House Visitor Center, their message to President Biden clear. “Stop US military aid to Israel,” their signs read. Another said: “You’ve lost my vote.”
Long before the demonstration was scheduled to begin, many held banners aloft, broadcasting messages such as “Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living” and “Let Gaza live!” A coffin draped in a Palestinian flag rested on the ground, not far from where more than a dozen adults and children spread another flag. Around 1 p.m., a Muslim call to prayer rang out in the square.
Many of the protesters, who had milled about, turned motionless.
Shawn Hubler and Darren Sands contributed to the report.