400,000 March for Gaza

Largest Rally for Palestine in U.S. History

By Ali Bin Omer

Mar/Apr 2024
Photo credit: CIOGC

On a chilly Saturday afternoon in January, 400,000 resilient individuals gathered at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., united in support of our brothers and sisters in Palestine. We gathered to demand that the U.S call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, cease unconditional funding of military actions by Israel, hold its leaders accountable for war crimes and continuous violations of international law and ultimately work toward the liberation of Palestinians. 

As part of a Global Day of Action, busloads of protestors arrived from Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio and other states, resulting in the largest pro-Palestine protest in this country’s history. It was endorsed by the American Muslim Task Force for Palestine which includes American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), CAIR and ICNA along with hundreds of additional organizations nationwide.

After 100+ days of intense carpet bombing and a high number of innocent civilians murdered, the march was timely, as this collective movement was feeling the weight of the brutality we continue to witness daily via our smartphones in the palm of our hands.

Palestinians are currently experiencing the greatest threat to their existence. Nearly 2 million of them in the Gaza Strip have been displaced and are now threatened with famine … not to mention the rise in aggression and the siege on Palestinians in Jenin, Ramallah, Al Quds, Hebron and other cities in Palestine.

A sea of black, green, red and white flags flooded the streets of D.C., with hundreds of thousands of voices for the voiceless chanting “Free, Free Palestine” and “End Genocide Now.”

Religious Leaders and Activists Take to the Stage

“South Africa is keeping alive the legacy of Nelson Mandela and suing Israel in the International Court of Justice, the highest court in the world, and they are charging the country with genocide,” proclaimed Yasir Qadhi (dean, Islamic Seminary of America). “We need to call a spade a spade. This is not antisemitism; it is speaking the truth. The Palestinian people are live tweeting their own genocide. They’re uploading images of their own massacre.”

 “We have been walking the halls of Congress every day for the last three months,” stated Medea Benjamin (co-founder, CODE PINK). “We need them to know that we will not stand by as they continue the genocide.”

“We are here to represent the 36,000 people that have either been martyred or are under the rubble,” said Shaykh Omar Suleiman (founder and president, Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research). “If we were to take to the streets for every casualty and every person under the rubble, it would take us 100 years to honor each and every single one of them.”

Wael al-Dahdouh (correspondent, Al Jazeera), whose wife, daughter, two sons and a grandchild were recently killed in Gaza, delivered a powerful statement via video call. “Gaza is going through a period of great hardship. The people here are paying a truly exorbitant price and are living a disastrous life. People do not have sustenance, food, or drink, a place to sleep, a bathroom and what is necessary for life — not for a decent life, [but] rather what is basically necessary to maintain life.” 

Photo credit: CIOGC

Alana Hadid, the oldest daughter of Mohammad Hadid (real estate mogul and survivor of the 1948 Nakba), passionately professed that “Collective freedom is what Palestinians have taught the world. Bravery and perseverance is what Palestinians have shown us day after day, not just for 100 days but 75 years, and we must continue the struggle for them.” 

Rally Attendees from All Walks of Life 

Outside of the inspirational speakers, many of us found value and warmth in the opportunity to connect with the greater pro-Palestine community. Many are showing their support in a silo through online activism on social media, calling our representatives (who once again prove to be useless) and attending protests as our circle of friends, coworkers, acquaintances and the like remain silent. It was a crucial step in a long battle to be among like-minded people who support humanity and justice for all. 

Two young women from St. Louis, one Palestinian-American and the other Caucasian-American, braved the long ride to D.C. They spoke about how the genocide had deeply impacted them and felt it was their duty to attend in person. 

A family of four from Alexandria, Va., also attended the march in solidarity, as it was personal for the family’s matriarch. Her great-grandfather immigrated from Palestine to Bolivia to escape apartheid. She has been horrified by the events of the past 3 months and considered it imperative to attend, along with her Irish American husband and twin daughters.

People from all walks of life traveled to be there. “I’m here because of the children being slaughtered,” said one Catholic attendee from Maryland. “Our president had said he would not go to war.”

“I understand that at times wars are needed, but there are rules that must be followed. Civilians cannot be killed for no reason,” said a Muslim attendee from New York. 

We came together, listened, shared stories, shed tears, shared laughter, marched, resisted and stood united for Palestine. We must fight, we must resist, and we must preserve until “from the river to the sea, Palestine is free” and every human being in this world is free.

Ali Bin Omer is a freelance writer.

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