Thousands of protesters gathered in Washington, DC, yesterday, October 16 to demand that President Joe Biden call for ceasefire in Gaza as Israel continues its deadly retaliation on the region after Hamas’s attack. Monday’s action, organized by If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), centered the voices of American Jewish people.
At noon, the activists gathered at Farragut Square in the city’s downtown and then marched to the White House, where the United States Secret Service arrested 49 protesters for trespassing and blocking entrances to the White House, according to an official statement shared with Hyperallergic.
“We are rising up for Gaza in the way we would have wanted others to rise up for our ancestors,” JVP member Jay Saper told Hyperallergic. Saper added that some of the arrested protesters are descendants of Holocaust survivors.
The activists held signs that read “Stop Genocide in Gaza,” “No to war; no to apartheid,” and “My grief is not your weapon,” and brandished a long black banner with “Ceasefire” painted in white lettering. In Hebrew and English, the groups chanted “not in our name” and “ceasefire now.”
Artist Roan Boucher, who created the image JVP has employed to publicize its actions on social media, told Hyperallergic that he’s been moved by the mass organizing efforts to stop the violence against Palestinians.
“Including from a huge, diverse group of Jews insisting that Israel’s violence, occupation, and apartheid are not in our name and do not make Jews safe,” Boucher said. “I love Judaism and it is agonizing to see it being weaponized for violence.”
Israel launched a bloody offensive in Gaza last week after Hamas’s attack on October 7. Since then, Israel has declared a siege on Gaza, rendering the region’s 2.3 million residents without electricity, internet, and clean drinking water. Israeli forces have killed at least 2,800 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, and entire neighborhoods have been razed. This morning, 500 people were reportedly killed when a hospital in Gaza was bombed, according to the Gaza-based authority. Hamas militants have killed over 1,400 Israelis and taken almost 200 hostages, per Israeli authorities.
As Israel continues to launch airstrikes and prepares for an imminent ground invasion, Americans have increasingly called on President Biden to call for a ceasefire. Some progressive politicians have done so in recent days, including US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York and US Representatives Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib from Missouri and Michigan, respectively.
“My government — the US — and the government that claims to speak for all Jews — Israel — have blood on their hands,” Ariel Gold, an activist who attended yesterday’s action, told Hyperallergic. She added that she was barred from entering Israel in 2018 for her work. “There is no justification for killing civilians.”
She said it felt “relieving” to be with other Jewish activists at a time when Jews “are being used as a weapon to justify the carrying out of genocide.” Tomorrow, President Biden will travel to Tel Aviv to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. JVP will lead another action in Washington, DC, this time at the US Capitol building, in a bid to convince Congress to insist on an end to the violence.