Tens of thousands of demonstrators were expected to fill 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, scheduled to take place in large metro areas including New York, Seattle and San Francisco but also in smaller cities like Orono, Maine, are extending a stretch of vocal opposition to Israeli tactics, which sparked vast demonstrations a week ago in Asian and European capitals.
Most Americans say that they sympathize with Israel, even as they dread the war’s fallout for their own country. But as Israel escalates attacks on Gaza and fatalities reported by Gazan authorities rise, US support for Palestinian civilians has emerged 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. Nevertheless, 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 were poised to reflect the constellation of causes and groups that have long connected themselves to Palestinian politics, including student organizations, labor unions and antiwar campaigns.
Washington was expected to be a hub of protest. As dump trucks and police vehicles blocked part of Pennsylvania Avenue, blocks from the White House, and as a line formed at the Museum of the Palestinian People just more than a mile away, keffiyeh-donning protesters streamed into Freedom Plaza.
Well before the protest’s scheduled start, many raised 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 pm, a call to prayer sounded through the plaza.
Many of the demonstrators, who had been milling about, turned still. For the time being, at least, there were no counterprotesters in sight.