D.C. joins list of cities protesting for Palestine
Activists supporting Palestine gather at the Washington Monument, Saturday, May 15. 2021. | Jose Luis Magana / AP

WASHINGTON—Hundreds of protesters filled the National Mall here on Saturday to demonstrate their solidarity with Palestinians all over the world on the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba. “Nakba” means “Catastrophe,” and refers to the Palestinian point of view on the Palestine War and the founding of Israel in 1948, which resulted in the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands and set the stage for perennial violence in the region.

Saturday’s protest was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, a nationwide organization uniting Palestinian youth into a force for peace in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the worldwide diaspora. The organization released a joint statement together with other North American Palestinian groups condemning the recent violence and vowing continued resistance.

Protesters gather in Washington, D.C., for the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

Protesters congregated at the eastern side of the Washington Monument around 3 p.m. There was a long speaking program featuring representatives of many prominent Palestinian organizations as well as messages of solidarity offered by other groups. A march then proceeded through the National Mall and down Constitution Avenue toward the National Archives.

The energy of solidarity was palpable. The diversity of the crowd highlighted the salience of the issue of U.S.-backed Israeli violence. Chants could be heard in English, Spanish, and Arabic. Many non-Palestinian speakers talked of the indivisibility of anti-oppression struggles the world over. And many others turned and faced the direction of the White House to explicitly remind President Joe Biden that the U.S. government continues to fund Israeli state violence.

The protest occurred against the backdrop of intensifying violence following Israeli forced settlement in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan earlier this month. Since then, there have been relentless bombing campaigns and reports of police-sanctioned violence and vigilante mobs targeting Palestinians. As of this writing, well over 200 people have been killed, thousands wounded, and upward of 40,000 displaced from their homes. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to continue bombing the Gaza Strip. In retaliation, Hamas militants in Gaza continue firing rockets into Israel.

This weekend’s escalation of violence comes after Israeli bombs destroyed the Gaza City building housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera as well as several residential apartments on Saturday.

The march heads toward the National Archives.

International outrage has been swift and unequivocal, and the protests in Washington were one of many happening in major cities around the world on the weekend. Concurrent to Saturday’s protest in the U.S. capital were demonstrations in London, Toronto, Ankara, and more. Elsewhere in the U.S., several major cities have seen large protests, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

Despite the mass demonstrations, most Western leaders continue to back Israel. The U.S., Germany, and the U.K. have all reiterated their support for what they call Israel’s “right to self-defense” while offering lukewarm pleas for the violence against Palestinian civilians to cease. At an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday, the U.S. again blocked the passage of a resolution, despite the appearance of consensus on the part of the other member nations.


Wes Vanderburgh
Wes Vanderburgh

Wes Vanderburgh, preferred pronouns he/they, graduated with $80,000 in student debt. They have worked with a debtors union as part of a multi-front struggle.