D.C. demonstrators demand: ‘Ceasefire Now!’
Members of the Communist Party USA march through the streets of Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 13, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. | Photo courtesy of CPUSA

WASHINGTON—Braving frigid winds, tens of thousands of protesters packed Freedom Plaza on Jan. 13, chanting “Free, Free Palestine” and “Ceasefire NOW.”

They rallied under a sea of red, green, and black Palestinian flags, South African banners, and green, white, and orange Irish flags held by Irish-Americans for Palestine—expressions of solidarity with the genocide case against Israel filed by South Africa and supported by an Irish lawyer at the International Court of Justice.

Thousands of hand-painted placards proclaimed “No Peace on Stolen Land” and “Mr. President: U.S. Bombs Are Killing Gaza Babies.”

Members of the Detroit and Hamtramck Chapter of the Muslim Ummah of North America at the march in D.C. on Saturday, Jan. 13. | Tim Wheeler / People’s World

Imam Khairuh Rafique of the Detroit and Hamtramck Chapter of the Muslim Ummah of North America stood in front of a banner, “Ceasefire NOW,” held by members of his Mosque.

“We brought 1,000 people from Detroit on 30 buses and 100 cars,” he told People’s World. “We are here to demand a ceasefire in the war on Gaza. We want this 70-year occupation of Palestine to end now. We want a free Palestinian State. The genocide must stop. Too many children, too many women and men have died.”

Added Rafique, “We are taxpayers. We did not give our tax dollars for killing innocent people, women, children. We have so many problems here in our country—so many of our children without health care or medicine.”

Asked about Rep. Rashida Tlaib—a Palestinian-American U.S. Congresswoman from Detroit under fierce attack by both Democrats and Republicans for her co-sponsorship of H. Res. 786 authored by Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) calling for a ceasefire in Gaza—he replied: “We support her 100%. She must be reelected.”

The crowd was jampacked into the vast plaza between 13th and 14th streets and E and Pennsylvania Ave.

Adam Aboshirieah, a New Jersey pharmacist, told the crowd that more than 100 of his family members, including his 83-year-old father, have died in Israel’s war on Gaza. “Dozens of my family members’ bodies are still under the rubble,” he said. “President Biden can easily put a stop to this genocide…. He can pick up the phone and call Israel to stop this madness.”

The crowd erupted in a chant, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, occupation has got to go.”

Members of the Communist Party USA march through the streets of Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 13, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. | Photo courtesy of CPUSA

Randu Muntaseb told the crowd she has lost 36 family members in Israel’s 100-day war on Gaza.

As if to underline the menace of the war escalating out of control, on the eve of the march, the U.S. and Britain launched air attacks on Yemen. Standing in the crowd was a man holding a sign, “U.S. Hands Off Yemen.”

The Communist Party USA was one of more than 100 organizations that endorsed the march. Joe Sims, national co-chair of the CPUSA, led a party contingent in the march with members from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Washington State.

The Baltimore CPUSA distributed thousands of copies of a leaflet headlined “CEASEFIRE NOW!” It urged people to call their U.S. representatives. “Tell them to support H. Res. 786, Rep. Cori Bush’s ceasefire resolution…. Get your city council to pass a ceasefire resolution,” the leaflets encouraged.

Sophia Sarantakos was standing with 70 others behind a giant banner that proclaimed, “Social Workers for Palestine.” She explained that she and the other social workers were delegates to a four-day international conference in D.C. in solidarity with the war victims in Gaza.

“It is absolutely crucial to win social justice for the Palestinian people, an end, first of all to this war,” she told People’s World. “We are fighting for a just world. I think the Israeli and U.S. war machines are engaged in death-making.”

Antonia Alvarez, standing beside her, broke in, “We are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people here today. Most of the participants in our conference are Americans. We will return home and work to free Palestine.”

Rank-and-File 4 Palestine: Ryan Harvey, a member of SEIU, at the Washington march on Saturday. | Tim Wheeler / People’s World

Standing nearby on Pennsylvania Ave. were union members holding a banner, “SEIU Local 500.” Ryan Harvey, holding one end of the banner, told People’s World he is the International Organizing Director of the Trade Policy Committee of his 10,000-member SEIU Local.

“We got our Local Executive Board to sign on to the Ceasefire Resolution that the United Auto Workers and United Electrical Workers initiated. I think that what is happening in Palestine is very, very, wrong. Unions are democratic bodies through which people can exercise power, and help us get better wages and working conditions, but also justice. Our unions are influential in elections, and it is important for our members to understand the political crisis in the United States.”

The huge crowd later marched to the White House, where thousands of teddy bears and other stuffed animals were left on the sidewalk for delivery to the children of Gaza, more than 9,000 of whom have been killed so far by U.S.-supplied Israeli bombs.

The demonstration was a high point of the worldwide “Global Day of Action” in solidarity with the Palestinian people. At least 24,285 Palestinians in total have been killed in Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza. Demonstrations were also seen in other U.S. cities from coast to coast, and millions joined mass rallies outside U.S. embassies around the world on the 100th day of Israel’s attack on Gaza.

West Coast action: Demonstrators in San Francisco also marched on Saturday, urging an end to U.S. funding for the Israeli war machine. | Photo courtesy of the Harry Bridges Club, CPUSA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responding to South Africa’s genocide case, declared this weekend, “Nothing will stop us!” He continues to claim the Israeli war on Gaza is justified as “self-defense” against the Hamas terrorist attack last Oct. 7 in which more than 1,000 Israelis died.

But the solidarity demonstrators totaling millions worldwide point out that the vast majority of the dead and wounded in Gaza are innocents who have no connection whatsoever to Hamas. They also pointed to the multiple statements of genocidal intent by members of Netanyahu’s government, declaring their intention to totally clear Gaza of its residents.

Netanyahu’s revenge, and U.S. support for his war, further wreck the possibility of a two-state solution—Israel and Palestine living side by side, free and equal.

Neddal Abutaa and his wife, residents of the Washington metro area, were in the crowd. “I love this demonstration, to see so many people marching for a ceasefire,” he said. “I’m surprised that President Biden does not see the number of innocent people who are being killed and he is allowing it to happen. Instead of de-escalation, he is escalating it.

“They are dropping these bombs on neighborhoods, wiping out entire families. Can you imagine it happening to you? It could happen to anyone. But this rally brings hope. We all need hope.”

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Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler has written over 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World, and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper.  His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view. After residing in Baltimore for many years, Tim now lives in Sequim, Wash.