Summary: The demonstration of several thousand galvanized support for Palestine — Editors
The energy on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California this Saturday, October 14th was palpable and encouraging. A rally had been organized to protest the ongoing Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza. The protest began in front of the Israeli Consulate. Around 12:30, an initial crowd of a couple of hundred Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Black people, Latinx people, families, students, activists, and socialists gathered around a retrofitted truck with microphones and speakers. I was among the members of the Los Angeles IMHO who were there in support.
The speakers began by condemning the Israeli Apartheid of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and, primarily, Gaza. They charted the history, dating back to the Nakba in 1948 when the Zionist state of Israel was established. The speakers touted the war crimes committed by the Israeli government, such as the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and land, the bombing and detaining of civilians, the horrible and unlivable conditions of Gaza, and the role of the U.S. as the imperial core and supplier of arms to the fascistic Israeli government. They were eloquent in their attacks and righteous in their fury, some spoke with shaky voices at times and others’ voices cracked in anger.
The crowd grew over the course of an hour. People waved Palestinian flags and held signs reading “Free Palestine” and “No US Aid for Genocide”. Another sign crossed out the words “Conflict. Antisemitic. Both Sides.” in red and wrote underneath: “Apartheid. Genocide. Resistance.” Many donned the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh with a fishnet pattern. Others wore red, green, and black to symbolize the Palestinian flag. Jewish Voice for Peace distributed its own signs, demonstrating this is an issue that, in its evil and brutality, unites people regardless of creed or ethnicity. To criticize the Israeli occupation of Gaza is not anti-Semitic but rather the duty of any person who calls themselves a leftist, a humanist, or claims to give a damn about people.
It is important to note that there were many socialist organizations present other than the IMHO, such as DSA and PSL. While we share fundamental differences with these organizations, this moment of great pain brought us together in solidarity. We distributed our leaflets, some groups set up tables in front of the consulate, and others distributed their own pamphlets and newspapers. What this says, to me, is that such instances are not only illustrative of the growing presence of socialism in the United States but also a growing thirst on behalf of activists, leftists, and others in parallel movements for an alternative to capitalism.
Around 2:00 the crowd had grown to between 1,000-2,000 and the marching began. Some reports and videos suggest the crowd grew to as many as 10,000 at its peak. The LAPD blocked intersections and entrances to the 405 Freeway as we moved down the street. We slowly moved from Granville Avenue toward Veteran Avenue, at one point passing underneath the 405 freeway. This moment, in particular, will always be with me. The chanting of the masses was amplified, echoing from all sides, in an almost angelic-sounding choir. “Free, Free Palestine”; “Netanyahu (or Biden-Biden) what do you say? How many kids have you killed today?”; “End Israeli Occupation”; and, of course, “From the rivers to the sea, Palestine shall be free.” We were harmonious in our zeal, and righteous in our determination.
Upon reaching Veteran Avenue and the Federal Building, I noticed an increasing police presence. At one point I saw some 20 police cars driving toward us with sirens on. Some parked and the state’s special bodies of armed men jumped out in full riot gear. No such riot or rampage occurred due to the demonstrators I was with. Fox News 11 reported that Zionist counterprotesters wearing Israeli flags approached from across the intersection and the police entered to create a barrier. I saw no such protesters, although we were encouraged to turn around by activists. I saw no violence occur, and the protest carried on moving in the opposite direction. I left around 4:00, and by that time I had neither seen nor heard any violence.
However, upon looking on Twitter (or X) later that evening, I did see a group of Zionists approach near the Equinox on Wilshire. Our demonstration was a peaceful one, a stark contrast to the vicious brutality of Zionists in Israel and the vicious, even violent, behavior in the U.S. cities and across college campuses. The Zionists who assaulted members of our protest on Saturday used mace against us. I saw a similar video where Pro-Palestinian students were called terrorists and physically harassed by Zionist students. This is, of course, a mere taste of what the Palestinian men, women, and children on the ground in Gaza are experiencing — not just today, but since the Nakba 75 years ago. Zionist must resort to violence because there truly is no rational justification for their nationalism and Apartheid; it is indefensible.
Moreover, this demonstration occurred after Israel called for a complete evacuation of northern Gaza – home to over 1 million Palestinians – to the south, which is generally considered to be worse off, in just 24 hours. The U.N. called this a humanitarian crisis. While Israel did not carpet bomb the area or engage in a full land invasion, as I thought in my worst moments of pessimism, they maintain that the Gazans who have remained (less than half) must leave immediately. Their pretext is the Hamas attack earlier this week. While such an attack is barbaric, the vast majority of those living in Gaza did not take part. Many support Hamas purely because they appear to be the best alternative, not because they are anti-Semitic or engage in acts of terror. I hope that this demonstration, as well as those across the country and world, will slow Israel’s advance.
More tangibly, I hope the demonstrations in the United States show President Biden just how dangerous his unequivocal support of Israel is. A day or so before the demonstration, Biden had already softened his rhetoric from unapologetically pro-Israel to support with qualification, the qualification being that they respect international law and human rights. Perhaps this demonstration and others around the country will force him to further rethink his administration’s position.
But Israel has already used white phosphorus, according to groups such as the Human Rights Watch. They have already bombed Gaza, shut off electricity and water, and killed civilians and journalists indiscriminately. The point is that the fascistic, Apartheid government of Israel has already committed war crimes and must be resisted at all costs, regardless of the Biden Administration’s position. We in the West can look at the Palestinian courage in the face of an asymmetry of force reminiscent, and perhaps indicative, of mass genocide. We must stand with them or we are complicit.
To close, I would like to recall my favorite sign from the demonstration. A woman was carrying a large black poster board with white writing on it. I remember I told her I liked her sign to which she responded, “it’s knocking me over” due to the wind. I forgot the quote and who she attributed it to, but to paraphrase:
“If you ever wonder where you would have been and what you would have been doing during U.S. Slavery, or in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, or in South Africa during Apartheid… Where are you now? What are you doing in the face of the genocide of the Palestinian people?”