National March for Gaza Brings Enormous Crowd to DC

National March for Gaza Brings Enormous Crowd to DC

 

Some 400,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. on Jan. 13 to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, a stop to the U.S. funding of Israeli genocide there, and an end to the siege of Gaza.  Tens of thousands converged in a sister demonstration the following day in San Francisco. This was the second giant pro-Palestine demonstration in the capital in as many months.

They joined millions around the world in a global day of action for Palestine, as Israeli genocide against Palestinians trapped in that tiny enclave neared 100 days.

A massive march was also held in London, Washington’s partner in the recent bombings that targeted Yemen for its solidarity with Gaza. Rallies, strikes, and mass mobilizations were held in major cities of South Africa, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, Indonesia, Ireland, New Zealand, Ivory Coast, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, Finland, as well as other cities across the United States.

The huge protests took place days after South Africa brought Israel to the International Court of Justice on charges of genocide against the Palestine people.

The demonstration in Washington DC was organized by the American Muslim Task Force for Palestine, a coalition of major Muslim civil rights organizations, with the ANSWER Coalition acting as a national partner. Addressing the crowd were Palestinians whose family members had been killed in Gaza, leaders of the organizations involved in the Task Force, Brian Becker of the ANSWER Coalition, actress Susan Sarandon, Alana Hadid, and by video message Wael Dahdouh, the heroic Gaza bureau chief for Al Jazeera.

From the podium and in the crowd, much of the anger was directed at Joe Biden for Washington’s funding of Israeli genocide, for opposing a cease fire in the UN, and for giving Israel political cover for its crimes. The overwhelming sentiment of the crowd was that under no circumstances could it be morally justifiable to vote for a murderer like Biden. Attendees were also outraged at members of Congress who refused to back a permanent cease fire, allowing the genocide to continue.

Speaker after speaker explained that the issue in Gaza was not some inherent “religious conflict”, it was a matter of fighting oppression and injustice — if genocide is allowed to be inflicted on the people Gaza, no group is safe. Many quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. as an enemy of all oppression, and Nelson Mandela, a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights.

Palestinians tell what was done to their Gaza families

Especially moving was testimony given by six Palestinian-Americans with families in Gaza. They described the killing of parents, brothers, sisters, cousins by Israeli bombs as they sheltered in their homes, as they helped dig out others trapped in rubble, as they followed Israeli orders evacuate to the south. Some were picked off by Israeli snipers while searching for water for their families. Others return from a search for food only to find their homes collapsed and their loved ones buried in rubble. It was with much passion that they demanded that the U.S force an immediate and permanent cease fire and stop aid to Israel. Allah Husein Ali, a physician from Michigan, said after describing how he lost 100 family members, “I paid for the murder of my brother with my tax dollars.”

At the conclusion of the rally these family members led the giant march from Freedom Plaza to the White House.

Another highlight was a video message shown on a big screen from Wael Dahdouh, the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Gaza, who has become a much-loved symbol of Palestinian resilience as he continued to report on Israeli atrocities even after Israel murdered his wife and children. Dahdouh thanked the crowd and emphasized the importance of international solidarity to the people of Gaza.

Speakers emphasize the power of the people

Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, Executive Director, American Muslims for Palestine & AJP action called out  U.S. politicians who support the genocide against Gaza, and members of the Biden administration who described as “meritless” the 84-page documentation of genocide presented to the International Court of Justice  by South Africa. “This fight will continue,” he said, calling on the many thousands present to join one of the organizations participating in the march “to organize and fight for freedom and justice for all…Palestine will be free, we are not going home. Gaza will be victorious. We will dismantle the genocide state. Muslim, Christians and Jews will live in peace, and freedom and justice will prevail.”

Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER coalition, informed the crowd that as they protest in Washington, activists had shut down the port in Oakland CA to stop ship that was  destined to go to Israel. He said:

“Joe Biden has decided not only to fund Israeli genocide in Gaza, but now to carry out a wider war by dropping bombs on people in Yemen because they are strong to stop a genocide and shut it down. Our message, not just for the politicians, but for our own movement, is that the power to make change is not going to come from the Democratic Party establishment or the Republican Party establishment, it going to come from us!” The example he cited was the mass struggle in South Africa, which overthrew apartheid.  For waging this struggle, “the people in South Africa 40 years ago were defined as terrorists and they were in jail, but today they accuse the genocidal maniac in Tel Aviv before the world. On Nov. 4 we were here in the hundreds of thousands, today we were here in a massive numbers, we’re shutting it down!”

After the powerful rally, the march wound its way through the streets of downtown Washington, D.C., taking the fight to the headquarters of the U.S. political elite. The demonstration took over the area, jamming the streets in a display of people power that was impossible to ignore.

The march ended outside the White House, at the doorstep of the war criminal Joe Biden. For hours after the demonstration ended, thousands remained just outside the White House gates, expressing their profound outrage at the mass murder that was plotted from that very location. There is no doubt that the political crisis for the Biden administration will only continue to deepen as long as it engages in genocide against the people of Gaza.

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