People supporting Palestinian rights marched through downtown Washington, DC demanding a cease-fire in Gaza, November 4, 2023. ANI Photo
NEW DELHI: Tens of thousands of demonstrators on Saturday (local time) crowded the streets of American cities to criticise Israel’s military campaign in Gaza Strip in response to the Hamas attack last month, The New York Times reported.
The protests in New York, Nashville, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and even Orono, Maine, demanded a cease-fire and an end to the siege in Gaza.
The demonstrations came a week after vast protests in Asian and European capitals and a day after the Israeli government appeared to reject the United States’ call for “humanitarian pauses” in the bombardment.
The protests were filled with messages like “Mourn the dead; fight like hell for the living”, “Free Palestine” and “Let Gaza live!” They also sought a shutdown of American aid to Israel, blending policy demands with anguish and ambition.
Some of the chants, most especially “From the river to the sea!” have been condemned as an antisemitic call for Israel’s destruction, though many protesters have defended the slogan as a cry for freedom, as per The New York Times.
The protests in the capital and elsewhere unfolded as public opinion surveys showed support for Israel in its military campaign against Hamas, which the United States government considers a terrorist organisation, but raised concern for Palestinian civilians.
Roughly 1,400 Israelis were killed in the attack by Hamas, and more than 9,000 Gazans have been killed and thousands of others injured in Israel’s bombing campaign that continued on refugee camps, schools and hospitals.
Saturday’s demonstrations also reflected the constellation of causes and groups that have long connected themselves to the Palestinian cause, including black activists, student organisations, labour unions and anti-war and environmental groups.
Palestinian support stormed Cincinnati with several hundred marchers clogging roads, shutting down intersections and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans under the watchful eye of a heavy police presence.
The rally and march brought together a disparate group of people.
The event was organised by the Cincinnati Socialists, but it was heavily attended by Muslims, Black activists, college students and peace advocates.
In San Francisco, thousands of protesters, many of them union members, including teachers and health care workers, filled Civic Center Plaza in front of City Hall. Many waved Palestinian flags and left mementoes and flowers at an altar spread on the pavement to honour the thousands of Palestinians in Gaza who have been killed in the ongoing war.
The group of more than 200 demonstrators gathered in front of the Provo City Library in Provo, Utah.
They comprised a wide range of races, including Muslims, Arab Americans and immigrants. Many of them dressed in the green, white and red colours of the Palestinian flag.
In Provo, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are prominent, and many of them took part in the protest, as per The New York Times.
The streets in the capital, Washington, DC, swelled with demonstrators, and the crowd was dense. Some protesters sat on a ledge outside the White House Visitor Center, their message to President Biden clear. “Stop U.S. military aid to Israel” and “You lost my vote,” their signs read.
The rally united participants and groups from all over the country. One notable tie involved Black activists. The link between Black activists and Palestinians stretches back decades but was reinvigorated in the wake of the 2014 Ferguson protests and the rise of Black Lives Matter.
Many Palestinian activists connected the police killing of unarmed Black people to the situation in Gaza and the West Bank.
During the George Floyd protests of 2020, it was common to see “Free Palestine” signs, according to The New York Times.