At 1 pm on Saturday, August 2, 2014 thousands gathered for The National March on the White House demanding an end to the Israeli massacre in Gaza, Palestine.
The March began at Lafayette Park across from the White House. Demonstrators crowded around a stage and listened to an assortment of speakers, sharing their perspectives and shouting in support of Palestine. The protesters then flooded downtown, Washington, marching through Pennsylvania Ave, and stopping at the Washington Post and Caterpillar Corporation. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” was one of the many chants that an estimated 50,000 passionate protesters shouted as they marched through the streets of Washington, D.C. Holding signs that read “Free Palestine, Let Gaza Live”, demonstrators demanded an end to the US support of Israel.
The rally was organized by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) along with approximately 40 other cosponsors, all in solidarity with the Palestinian people. According to organizers, the demonstration was the largest yet in the United States in support of this cause. Flights and buses flooded the Nation’s capital from an array of states including New York, Florida, Detroit, California, Texas and even small cities in Louisiana.
“Its interesting to call it a conflict in the first place,” says Karla Reyes, a volunteer from the Answer Coalition in New York who came to Washington, D.C. for the rally. She states that the violence in Palestine is the “epitome of injustice”, and describes it as a “one-sided genocide” in support of Israel. Rayes states that the rallies are important for the consciousness of the cause. “The American government needs to know that a lot of the community does not agree with our money being used to fund genocide.”
The goal of such demonstrations is “awareness,” says Eugene Puryear, one of Answer Coalition’s organizers at a sign making work session the evening before the rally. Protestors from all around the United States who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the National March were invited to help make signs that would be held during the event. “I think this is helpful, [as well as] a great way for like minded people who feel the same way about this issue to meet each other and to come together,” says Puryear. “It helps us build our forces and our unity in a way so that we can go out and be more effective.”
Many of the protesters displayed fervor as they made coffins draped with the Palestinian flag and delivered them to the White House doorstep, symbolic of the large number of civilian deaths. They dressed in traditional Palestinian clothing, held and supported ensembles made of the Palestinian flag and even painted their faces with the flag colors. Signs embodied an assortment of different messages, revealing graphic images of deceased and wounded children, and exhibiting phrases such as “Israel, USA: how many kids have you killed today?”
Activists from all over the United States headed to the Nation’s capital with congruent yet personal reasons for why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is important to them. Fatima Sultan Mohammadi from Maryland states that the atrocities are “getting out of hand…we came out specifically today, at this time, because the massacre is [now] happening on a larger scale.” Mohammadi views the conflict as horrific. “If the Israeli government isn’t stopped… then it is a representation of how low we have come as humans. This is what we are [here] standing up for, humanity.”
Ahmad Mohammed from Springfield, Virginia says he traveled to Washington D.C. in hopes of receiving “justice and peace for Gaza and all of Palestine. He believes that advocacy for Palestine should be universal. “As Nelson Mandela said, injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere so no matter where you’re from, if your Muslim, Jewish- if you know the reality of what’s going on you should stand up for change,” said Mohammed who is originally from Gaza.
The demonstrators in Washington DC as well as many other US cities stand united in requesting change starting with the US government. “It’s a long term struggle, for years people [have done] all sorts of things; marching, demonstrating and boycotting for civil rights and they didn’t see a lot of movement. It can take some time when you have all these powerful voices: the media, the government completely pushing one thing. So I would say for people not to get discouraged,” said Puryear. He claims that marching is the first step of many to come that will lead to an independent Palestine. “Obviously marching is not the only thing that we need to do, we need to put pressure on politicians, and not only that, we need to elect people who think like us into these seats. Just like apartheid in South Africa, civil rights, the labor movement its that long term commitment that makes it so that we can make a change.”