WASHINGTON — Hours after Israel launched an airstrike on a Gaza media tower, hundreds of protesters marched Saturday afternoon from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol in protest of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and what they said was an inadequate response from the United States.
“People think they can be neutral about this. That’s absolutely wrong,” said Alexandra-Ola Chaic, 17, who traveled to the rally from Burke, Va., with her family, which is of Palestinian descent. “We have to do what we can to make this an issue that receives political support.”
The protest was one of several planned around the country for Nakba Day, which Palestinians observe every May 15 to commemorate the 1948 displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid Israel’s war of independence. The Washington protest was organized by local chapters of the Palestinian Youth Movement and American Muslims for Palestine, but news of the march spread largely through social media and word of mouth, including during Friday prayers at local mosques.
The crowd that gathered was diverse in age and background, and included many families with young children.
Ruth Soto, 25, from Northern Virginia, came with her sister to show solidarity with Palestinians. She said the displacement of Palestinians felt personal to her because her family fled war in Central America to come to the United States illegally.
“We’ve seen the struggle, being displaced from your home,” she said. “This is a way we can help them.”
Zeina Hutchinson, who was born in Palestine, came from Ashburn, Va., to protest with her husband and two sons, aged 12 and 13. She said it was important to her that her sons remembered their Palestinian roots and continued to fight for their people’s independence. Ms. Hutchinson echoed the desire of many protesters that the government end aid to Israel and sanction the country over the current conflict.
“I’m here to demand from Congress, from every elected representative, to condition aid to Israel and to sanction Israel. Because what’s happening right now is unconscionable,” she said.
Omar Hudhud, a senior at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., came with his sister, Salma, and mother, Inam, who is Palestinian and was born and raised in Jerusalem.
“To see a lot of people from different ethnicities, diversities,” he said, “it just brought a sense that we’re all in this together.”
Inam Hudhud said she felt helpless watching footage of the rocket attacks on Palestinian communities. “It hurts my heart,” she said. “At least I can come here and protest. It’s the best thing I can do.”
Protests also rose in other parts of the world on Saturday:
Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters, many of them waving Palestinian flags or wearing traditional kaffiyeh scarves, gathered in downtown Auckland, New Zealand, as well as at smaller rallies throughout the country. The march was scheduled weeks in advance for Nakba Day. Protesters called on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand to condemn Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and expel Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand.
Natasha Frost contributed reporting.