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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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land day palestine protest: cover

Protestors gather in Dupont Circle to commemorate Land Day and support Palestine

Attendees call for ceasefire, end to US aid to Israel

Six months into the Israel-Hamas war, hundreds gathered in Dupont Circle on March 30 to commemorate Land Back Day, calling for an immediate ceasefire and support for Palestinians in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

Many also attended the protest to call for a ceasefire, raise awareness about the suffering in Gaza and demonstrate their solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The protest, held by the DMV Palestinian Youth Movement, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and American Muslims for Palestine, marked the sixth year since the Great March of Return, in which thousands of Palestinians marched in protest across Gaza’s border. 

Land Back Day began in 1976 when organized Palestinian marches and strikes against Israeli occupation in Gaza sparked a shooting that killed six Palestinians. Since then, March 30 has become a global hallmark of independence and resistance for Palestinians.

Protesters and speakers alike joined in a chant together, stating their five demands: “an immediate and permanent ceasefire, an end to all U.S. aid to the Zionist State, the 17-year-long siege on Gaza be lifted, the release of all Palestinian prisoners and an end to the Zionist occupation of Palestine.”

The DMV PYM organized a series of events throughout the day to commemorate Land Day, with the protest concluding a day of kite-making, cultural exhibits and a group bicycle ride. 

land day palestine protest pic: bike tire with poster

Fliers released before the protest advertised a break for iftar as well as prayer, as the protests took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Before the prayer break, there were group chants led by the various organizations calling “up for liberation, down with the occupation” and to “end the detention and stop the crimes.”

As of April 16th, approximately 9,500 Palestinians are currently imprisoned in Israel, with the figure increasing exponentially after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. 

After leading the crowd through chants, multiple speakers recounted the “history of oppression” associated with Land Back Day and read “The Olive Tree,” a poem by Palestinian poet Mohaumad Darwish, that calls for peace and prosperity for all Palestinians. 

Lily Song, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she believes in a permanent and lasting ceasefire, in addition to an end to the United States’ funding of Israel. 

“People are starving to death at this point, and I’m honestly beyond appalled that this is still going on,” Song said. “This is not the time for people to look away now. Things just keep getting worse.” 

The protest broke halfway through for the Maghrib prayer and iftar, a traditional fast-breaking meal of dates and water, as non-Muslim protesters continued to speak out against the humanitarian conditions in Palestine. 

land day palestine protest pic: person praying on fountain

Janet Erwin, a local resident who participated in the protest, said she is “appalled and horrified at what’s happening there.” Erwin also said that although the current conditions in Gaza are increasingly violent, conflict is nothing new as it’s been “going on for almost 50 years,” referring to the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In October 1973, Egypt and Syria attempted to reclaim territory Israel had gained in the 1967 June War, resulting in over 2,500 Israeli military casualties, and an estimated 15,000 Egyptian deaths and 3,500 Syrian deaths, although these counts are not exact. 

“The world's turned a blind eye to the Palestinian cause for so long,” said attendee Scott Machaby, who has Jewish heritage, although he said he does not follow the faith today. 

“I was raised Jewish,” Machaby said. “I support Israel; I just don’t support their policies.”

land day palestine protest pic: jews say stop the genocide

Anger towards Israel’s policies has grown since Oct. 7. A February poll from the Associated Press found that 50 percent of U.S. adults say Israel has “gone too far.”

The crowd hosted a vast array of individuals, with a wide range of ages, genders and ethnic groups. Among the signs calling for freedom in Palestine, other signs signaled support from Irish Americans, Latinos and the D.C. chapter of Black Alliance for Peace

land day palestine protest pic: grandchild and elder

Jaime Pineta, another attendee, displayed a poster stating Latino Americans stand with Palestine to show his solidarity, and said he has seen “too much suffering.” 

“I believe a lot of the suffering in Palestine is similar to what [Latin-Americans] suffered at the hands of Spain,” Pineta said. “I believe there’s a correlation, and all of Latin America should be supporting Palestine.” 

land day palestine protest pic: pineta’s photo

Nat Curtain, an Irish-American, chose to show their support on the anniversary of Land Day and the Great March of Resistance. 

“It’s symbolic of Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenous struggles against colonialism worldwide,” Curtain said. 

Curtain carried a poster with the words “Saoirse don Phalastín,” which translates to “Freedom for Palestine” in Irish. Curtain also stood with a group of individuals who held a Palestinian flag with the Irish phrase across it, announcing Irish support for Palestine. 

“There’s a lot of historical connection between the Irish struggle and the Palestinian struggle. We are Irish in America; we need to take up that call,” Curtain said. “We need to take the lead from our Irish siblings [on] the island to stand in solidarity with Palestine any way we can.” 

land day palestine protest pic: nat and poster

Jacqueline Luqman, a member of the Black Alliance for Peace, came to show solidarity for Palestine. Lucqman said she has been an ally for Palestine since she became a Black revolutionary and “since I’ve understood that I need to fight for liberation for Black people.” 

“Then I looked around and thought ‘Wait, we’re not the only ones oppressed,’” Luqman said. 

Luqman acknowledged those who had inspired her previously and who stood in solidarity with and connected the struggles of Africa to Palestine. 

“We’re being silent about the genocide of the Palestinian people on land that was stolen by another settler colonialist project, and we’ve been silent about their crimes too,” Luqman said. “It’s all about land. Everyone should have their own land so we can live in peace.” 

Two federal employees showed their support for Palestine, donning posters with names of their coworkers who had resigned following their administration’s handling of the war. Sarah East said she wanted to make it clear that not everyone who works in this government and administration stands with the current policy. 

“The direction of this administration and government does not reflect the overwhelming will of federal employees from everyone I’ve spoken to, and certainly myself,” East said. 

East expressed solidarity for former employees she referred to as Annelle, Tariq and Josh “who have all resigned from this administration and encouraged others who feel compelled to speak out to show them there is a way to do that.”  

land day palestine protest pic: name poster

The U.S. federal government’s response to the conflict has caused controversy within the administration and divided Americans outside of it. Earlier this year, a group of anonymous federal employees operating under the name Feds for Peace took a day of leave to protest President Biden’s continued support of Israel. This disagreement extends outside of the White House though. According to a January poll by Gallup, 41 percent of the American public support the U.S.’s current involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict, while 39 percent say the U.S. is not doing enough and 19 percent say there has been too much action in support of Israel. 

The designated spokesperson for the protest, Sean Blackmon, spoke on behalf of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Blackmon articulated concern about how much money the U.S. is providing Israel.

“Zionist Israel can only operate for one reason. It can only operate with the direct support of the United States of America, the imperialist hegemonic power on the world stage,” Blackmon said to the crowd.

“We feel as socialists that all the money and resources that's going to carry out genocide against the Palestinians and/or death, destruction and bloodshed around the world could be better used to help poor and working people right here in the United States,” Blackmon continued. “We need health care. We need quality food, we need clean water, we need housing that is suitable for human beings to live.” 

According to The Pew Research Center, “36 percent of Americans favor providing U.S. military aid to help Israel in its war against Hamas, while 34 percent oppose it.” Currently, the U.S. is the biggest Israeli arms supplier and provides approximately $3.8 billion annually to help bolster Israel’s military forces. 

Some at the protest called for more U.S. aid to Gaza, rather than the export of arms to Israel. 

Linnea Vegh, a D.C. resident, emphasized how she and others seek to hold the government accountable by attending protests. 

“The U.S. needs to do more,” Vegh said. “We want to let people know that we’re watching.”

Although demanding change and staying vigilant has become exhaustive for many, those like protester Laila Syed will continue to show up and use protests as fuel for the future. 

“I find that personally when I come into spaces like this, it really just reminds me that there is a very large movement supporting the Palestinian people,” Syed said. “It sort of reinvigorates me.” 

This article was edited by Abigail Hatting, Zoe Bell, Tyler Davis and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Ariana Kavoossi. 

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