Mass DC protest demands end to US support for Israeli apartheid

ON NOVEMBER 4TH, a mass of protesters – organizers say as many as 300,000 – converged on DC in demonstration of support for the people of Palestine. The scale of the DC protests, which converged at Freedom Plaza, are hard to put into words. On the ground, a sea of people were stretched in all directions of downtown DC. The city had not seen this sort of mass demonstration at this scale since the 2017 Women’s March.

Through signage and coordinated chants, demonstrators made clear demands for the Biden Administration to end its support for Israel’s active genocide on the people of Gaza, haltprovisions of war aid to Israel, and denounce the apartheid regime which constrains the life and freedom of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West bank.

The crowd was multi-ethnic and multi-generational — a diversity that reflects the wide unpopularity of the Biden Administration’s diplomatic support for the current Israeli regime. Muslims and Arabs were a clear bloc within the protests, as were American Jews opposed to Israel’s Zionist ambitions. Students and young people were also numerous — organized through a constellation of Palestinian youth organizations and student groups. Families including children and the elderly also spanned the crowd.

The protests were initially called by the ANSWER Coalition – an anti-war protest outfit whose origins were in building protest infrastructure against George W. Bush’s crusades in the Middle East. Today, the organization is understood to be an arm of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) – a political party that has run presidential elections and the occasional city council race. Though the PSL has drawn skepticism from the broader left for its centralized and opaque command structure, their public effort in underlining the protest shouldn’t be understated.

The Democratic Socialists organized a loud contingent in the march. New York City DSA bused in hundreds of members and brought down signage and flyers advocating for their congressional fight against Israel’s war machine: No Money for Massacres. Metro DC DSA also organized its own infrastructure for the protest. Operating from the back of a wide DSA section of the protest, local socialists operated a roving caravan of wagons (and a bicycle) that distributed water, food and protest signage in addition to coordinating marching orders.

Photo of the DSA contingent of the November 4th protest for Palestine.

A wider constellation of the local left was on display. Artist collectives organized unique signage production. A local cooperative book store organized outreach and notices to drum up support. Propagandists papered the District’s electrical boxes and lampposts to spread mass awareness of the event. Mutual aid and other local community organizations took to farmers’ markets prior to the protest to engage the lay public. Small neighborhood groups prepared pre-protest lunches to marshal their blocks to Freedom Plaza.

Workers of all kinds were present. Proud members of the United Auto Workers — fresh off their recent victory against the Big Three — held up placards displaying their logo as shields. Health care professionals, outraged at the violence perpetuated on aid and care workers by Israeli bombs. Bureaucrats and political staff also played their part, organizing contingents in the march to demonstrate their disputes with the directives coming from the top brass of the Biden Administration.

Protesters carry a sheet containing the names of Palestinian children killed in Israel's bombardment of Gaza. Photo from Twitter user Adrian Antonioli @adrianantonioli

Emotions at the mass demonstration certainly encumbered deep anger and sorrow. For weeks, US politicians and mass media networks ignored or defended what the public was clearly seeing as textbook genocide. This mass turnout demonstrated defiance against these hollow narratives, but also bolstered the spirits of Americans who had felt isolated from the dictate coming from America’s out-of-touch political leaders and their allies in corporate media. And so for all the rage present at the march, joy, optimism and fraternity were just as palpable.

Along the protest, water and food were plentiful. Some marchers shared Palestinian dates – one of the most sought after exports from the lands of Palestine. Drummers interspersed in the crowd to set the pace of the march. Adolescents and teenagers climbed onto public infrastructure to gawk at the size of the crowd, swing flags, and call for chants. Adults slung children over their shoulders to keep them moving, as young people helped usher the elderly through the masses of people. Though the march remained militant and on message, care and camaraderie fueled the crowd’s persistence.

As mass protesters marched in DC, large protests in other cities continued for the fourth week in a row. Beyond America, protests in European capitals also expressed rage and dissatisfaction with the West’s collective consent for Israel’s depraved slaughter. 

Scene of a YDSA contingent in the Palestine protests.

Though it remains to be seen if mass, global unrest will truly have an effect on US decision-making, Israel’s genocide has seemingly eroded enthusiasm for and within the Biden Administration. Dissent and ambivalence towards this administration was a major theme echoed by protesters and its associated speakers.

The Biden Administration’s position on this genocide has collapsed its popular support. A recent Gallup poll showed an 11-point dip among Democrats and 4-points among Independents as Republican support held: resulting in a record-low approval rating of just 37% across the country. Among Arab voters, populations of whom are concentrated in must-win swing states such as Michigan and Virginia, support for Biden has dropped to just 17%, down from 56% back in 2020. Among those under 30, support for Biden had fallen to less than 10%. In some polls, Donald Trump is trailing Biden in deep blue states like New York by just a few percentage points. 

Some Democratic operatives have balked at these polling updates. Surely, they insinuate, the Republican threat to abortion access, student debt forgiveness, racial equality and expansion of union rights are issues large enough to overpower voters outrage over the Administration’s shocking support for genocide. 

Even if support doesn’t budge, the Party has hobbled its capacity to mobilize needed staff and volunteer enthusiasm needed to maintain a functioning political campaign. The Biden Administration has also revealed itself as effectively powerless: if Biden and his boys cannot move the government to stop war crimes committed by a small client state, can the Administration and its Congressional allies really be trusted on anything else? Who would find themselves so desperate to dedicate time and energy boosting or supporting this clique's electoral ambitions?

It’s this context that seems to have installed a permanent, dark cloud over the American national mood. Wider fears of a larger Middle-Eastern war linger on the horizon. But if there is any hope, it will be found in the masses of working people who demonstrate that peace and solidarity are possible.

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