Washington, DC – Tens of thousands of people have gathered in the United States capital to demand a ceasefire in Gaza as Washington continues to resist calls for an end to the war despite the mounting death toll.
The demonstrators in Washington, DC on Saturday directed their anger towards US President Joe Biden, accusing him of enabling genocide against Palestinians.
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“Biden, Biden, you can’t hide; we charge you with genocide,” the protesters chanted.
United Nations experts have warned of a growing risk of genocide in Gaza amid Israel’s relentless bombardment of the enclave, which was launched in response to Hamas’s October 7 attacks on southern Israeli communities.
The UN’s Genocide Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”, including killings and measures to prevent births.
Biden has also requested more than $14bn in aid for Israel from Congress to help fund the current war in Gaza, which has killed at least 9,488 Palestinians, according to health authorities in the Hamas-governed enclave.
Many protesters at Saturday’s rally called for an end to US assistance to Israel. The demonstration stretched several blocks from Freedom Plaza, near the White House, eastward towards the US Capitol.
Al Jazeera spoke to many of the protesters. Here’s what they had to say:
Nidaa, demonstrator from Gaza
Nidaa, who chose to be identified by her first name only, said her family in Gaza is experiencing constant bombardment with no safe place in the entire territory.
“Stop the war. Stop the bombing. Stop this genocide in Gaza – that’s the number one message we are sending today, and I hope our government will listen to us. I hope our people in Gaza, in Palestine in general, know that we are here. Hopefully, they will hear our voices to at least to cheer them up a little bit – that they are not alone.”
Huda Alkuraey, Yemeni-American advocate
Alkuraey, who travelled to Washington, DC from South Florida to join the protest, voiced anger at the US and international reaction to the conflict.
“Palestinians haven’t had freedom for over 70 years. And it’s time that we make our voice heard, and we start telling the world that this is not right.”
David Horowitz, Jewish-American activist
Horowitz stressed the need for a ceasefire, calling the carnage in Gaza an “abomination”. He also slammed the Biden administration’s call for humanitarian pauses as insufficient.
“We should be calling for a ceasefire, and instead they’re talking about a ‘pause’, which isn’t really a stoppage of anything. They’re going to let the supply trucks through, and then they’re going to continue to fight. It’s a euphemism and the public doesn’t understand that. It really is not a ceasefire.”
Ayan Yusuf, Somali-American protester
Yusuf came to Washington, DC from Boston to attend the rally. She said the Biden administration is not seeing Palestinians’ humanity.
“We are here to speak for the innocent people. We are here to let the world know that what Israel and the United States are doing is not self-defence; it’s a genocide. And we’re not supporting that regardless of religion, regardless of our ways, regardless of agenda. We are all human beings.”
Eisha Raja, Pakistani-American activist
Raja dismissed a newly announced push by the Biden administration to battle Islamophobia in the US as a “despicable” effort to distract from Washington’s policies in Gaza.
“We want to 100 percent support a ceasefire. We need this to end. We don’t want to send any of our tax dollars to Israel anymore. We don’t want to be supporting genocide – blood on our hands.”
Maria Habib, Lebanese-American demonstrator
Habib, who was dressed in a traditional Palestinian dress known as thobe, said she is having a difficult time coping with the war and the graphic images of the atrocities in Gaza. She added that she will not vote for Biden and other Democratic candidates next year.
“They have no more votes – from me or my family or anybody. It’s done. I did vote for them in the past because basically, we don’t have a better choice. Now, it’s not even a choice.”
Siham Alfred, Nakba survivor
Siham Alfred, who was forced out of her home as a child during the establishment of Israel in 1948, expressed fear over the potential of displacement of Palestinians out of Gaza, denouncing Biden and other Western leaders.
“Shame, they are racist. They do not believe that Palestinians are equal to Israelis. I will never vote for Biden. He’s a coward and a criminal.”