Protesters gather on Wilshire Blvd. demanding end to Gaza war
The tone of Sunday's protest was a more palpable anger than in recent weeks. This was due to the increasing ferocity of the war as reports emerged of a deadly rampage by Israeli troops in the neighborhood of Shujaiyah.
Palestinian flags were waved as protesters gathered in masse on each side of Wilshire and chanted slogans in support of Gaza and Palestine, as well as demanding an end to the Israeli occupation and violence. Signs featuring icons such as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi were raised high.
"Netanyahu you will see, Palestine will be free!" chanted the crowds as others joined with flags from Lebanon, Syria and Libya. Some Egyptians even wore military berets with the emblem of the Egyptian army. Cars passed by honking in support with some motorists flashing Palestinian flags or peace signs.
Among the protesters was 95-year-old Ernest Rosenthal, a Holocaust survivor who was there to voice his opposition to the war. Around his neck he wore a small copy of Picasso's painting of the bombing of Guernica with a message that read "Guernica to Gaza. Not in my name!"
"I am writing a personal letter to President Obama," said Rosenthal in criticizing U.S. support for the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, "because he seems to forget that people have the right to defend themselves." Rosenthal condemned Israel's invasion of Gaza and stated that he believed Israel was manipulating European guilt over the horrors of the Holocaust to justify its relentless war against the Palestinians.
"The Palestinians are the victims of aggression," continued Rosenthal. "This has been going on since 1948," he added, citing the decision to partition Palestine that planted the roots of the ongoing conflict.
Speakers stepped up into a microphone and read revolutionary poetry, recited the figures of the number killed so far or simply chanted passionate declarations demanding the liberation of the Palestinian people.
Jeff Bigelow of the Answer Activist Coalition said, "We're out here today because of the Israeli aggression, we're sick and tired of the racism, we're sick and tired of the occupation. We're sick and tired of how U.S. dollars are used to finance Israeli aggression and destruction in Gaza."
Nicolae Garcia of the local Revolution Books publishing house stood by a kiosk handing out radical literature and books by Middle East scholars such as the late Edward Said. "Seeing the dead babies, there's no way you cannot act on what's going on in Gaza," he said.
"People should know that Israel is acting with pretty much with a green light from the U.S.," added Garcia.
Suha Nurezzia, in dark shades with a Palestinian flag held aloft said "we all love our children the same. If it was your child being killed would you support this [war]?"
Dressed in a red t-shirt featuring the iconic face of Che Guevara was Ahlam Khamis, a half-American, half-Palestinian student voicing her opposition to the Gaza war. Around her neck was a small, golden necklace shaped like the slender territory now setting the world aflame. "I just returned from Palestine two days ago," she revealed. "I am incredibly humiliated to be a U.S. citizen because my tax dollars are being spent on the missiles being dropped on the people of Gaza," she added.
Khamis pointed out that while many Americans try to have a neutral, even dismissive attitude towards world events and politics in general, they should care because U.S. tax dollars are used to fund Israel. "We have a responsibility to try and educate people. It's hard, there's a lot of shit that's just straight lies in the media. My advice to students is to go and ask questions," she said.
A poignant moment during the protest was when activists held mock bodies shrouded in white and performed a symbolic funeral for those who have died in Gaza during the ongoing invasion.
The protest then marched down Wilshire towards the Israeli consulate, waving their signs and shouting slogans before the rising buildings of the city. With no pro-Israel demonstrations organized on Wilshire this day, the streets belonged to the echoing voices in support of the Palestinian struggle. Protesters vowed to continue their own struggle for as long as Israel wages its war on Gaza. As long as the bombs keep falling, their marches will continue.