Thousands of demonstrators 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 terrorist assault by Hamas.
Saturday’s marches, organized in cities including New York, Nashville, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and San Francisco, extended a stretch of loud calls for a cease-fire and lifting of the siege, following vast demonstrations a week ago in Asian and European capitals.
Most Americans express support for Israel in its fight against Hamas, but as Israel escalates attacks on Gaza, U.S. support for Palestinian civilians has surged as well.
In a poll released by Quinnipiac University on Thursday, 84 percent of voters said that they were concerned that the United States would be drawn militarily into the Middle East conflict. Nonetheless, a 51 percent majority supported sending more military aid to Israel for their campaign against Hamas, and 71 percent supported humanitarian assistance for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
The demonstrations on Saturday reflected the constellation of causes and groups that have long connected themselves to Palestinian politics, including student organizations, labor unions and antiwar campaigns.
In Washington, the number of attendees was not clear Saturday afternoon, but the streets swelled with demonstrators, and the crowd was dense. Some of the areas of the rally were rowdy, while others were more sedate.
At one spot, a man wearing a Palestinian flag as a cape climbed up a traffic light and yelled, “Free, free Palestine!” to a drumbeat down below. A calmer segment of protesters sat quietly at the World War I Memorial, holding up signs and Palestinian flags and looking on at Freedom Plaza, where chants and cheers abounded.
Some protesters on the edges of the demonstration sat on a ledge outside the White House Visitor Center, their message to President Biden clear. “Stop U.S. military aid to Israel,” their signs read. Another said, “You lost my vote.”
Well before the protest’s scheduled start, many lifted placards high, broadcasting messages like “Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living” and “Let Gaza live!” A coffin shrouded in a Palestinian flag rested on the ground, not far from where more than a dozen adults and children stretched out another flag. Around 1 p.m., a Muslim call to prayer sounded through the plaza.
Many of the demonstrators, who had been milling about, turned still.
Shawn Hubler and Darren Sands contributed reporting.