Beatriz Pascual Macias
Washington, Nov 4 (EFE) – Wrapped in Palestinian flags and shouting in anger, thousands of people took to the streets of the US capital on Saturday to demand a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli offensive has claimed nearly 9,500 lives, most of them children and women.
The heart of Washington was flooded for hours by a crowd that stretched as far as the eye could see. Organizers of the protest, which included both pro-Palestinian groups and anti-Zionist Jewish organizations, called it the “National March on Washington: For a Free Palestine,” according to a permit issued by the National Park Service.
“We need a ceasefire now. And I will shout for it to happen until the day I die or until the end of time. It has to happen now, now!” 23-year-old Amir Mahtie, who traveled to Washington from New Jersey with friends to participate in the protest, told EFE.
Arab-Americans disappointed with Biden
Mahtie, who is of Egyptian and Dominican descent, was particularly critical of US President Joe Biden, who has called for a “pause” in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, but has opposed a ceasefire.
“I am deeply disappointed. It is a colossal injustice that the person I voted for in 2020, in whom I placed my trust, now has the blood of innocent people on his hands,” Mahtie said.
The young woman assured that she would not vote for Biden in the 2024 presidential elections, in which the president will seek re-election and could again face Donald Trump, who starts as the favorite to be the Republican Party’s candidate.
Her friend, Aliaa Essaf, 21, of Moroccan descent, felt the same way. “Biden is not going to get my vote and I can say that with absolute certainty. I think Arab-Americans in general are deeply disgusted and disillusioned with the direction Biden has taken, and I definitely won’t be supporting him,” Essaf stressed.
Their stance reflects the views of many Americans, according to a recent poll released by the Arab American Institute. According to that poll, support for Biden among Arab Americans, a crucial voting bloc in battleground states, has plummeted from a comfortable 59 % to just 17 %.
The demonstration was an outpouring of disgust with a position the US has maintained for decades, becoming the leading provider of military aid to Israel since World War II.
From children to grandparents, participants wore kufiyas, the traditional Palestinian head scarf, and chanted slogans such as “Free Palestine, Free Palestine!” and “Cease fire now!”
The outcry of minorities
The protest began around 14:00 local time (18:00 GMT) at Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, and after about three hours of chanting there, demonstrators made their way to the White House, filling the streets with Palestinian flags.
Among the demonstrators were a significant number of members of racial minorities, including African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, as well as hundreds of Arab Americans.
Tara Houska, a prominent Native American rights advocate, told EFE that US authorities are clearly perpetuating in Gaza the “legacy of colonization” that lives on in the foundations of the United States.
And Alyssa Park, a 21-year-old African-American woman, highlighted the connection between the struggle for racial equality and what is happening in Gaza.
As a member of a minority group that has been oppressed for decades, Park said she deeply empathizes with the suffering of the Palestinian people, saying, “It’s easy to relate to because we know how they feel.”
According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, racial minorities show high levels of dissatisfaction with Biden’s handling of the conflict, with 40 percent of African-American voters and 50 percent of Hispanic voters expressing dissatisfaction.
The march was called by the ANSWER coalition, which was formed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and includes Palestinian, Jewish, anti-Zionist, LGTBIQ+ rights and environmental organizations.
In a show of force, the ANSWER coalition organized two major protests: one in Washington DC, which drew thousands of people bused in from various parts of the East Coast, and another in San Francisco, which drew protesters from the West Coast. There were also protests in other cities like New York.
The conflict erupted on Oct. 7 after a massive attack by Hamas that left 1,400 dead (mostly civilians), to which Israel responded with constant bombardment of the Gaza Strip and a land invasion that began a week ago and has left nearly 9,500 dead on the Palestinian side. EFE