The largest pro-Palestine rally in US history took place this past Saturday, Nov. 4, in the heart of Washington DC. As nations and human rights organizations around the world warn that Israel is committing acts of genocide with its scorched-earth bombing and ground invasion of Gaza, and as Israeli military and settler violence increases in the occupied West Bank, people from all over the US descended upon the nation’s capital to demand an immediate ceasefire, an end to US aid to Israel, and an end to Israel’s 75-year occupation of Palestine. And organizers of Saturday’s march, along with other international organizations, are also calling for a national day of action on Thursday, Nov. 9. Many corporate media outlets have either ignored, attempted to downplay, or misconstrued the tone and scale of the Free Palestine! National March on Washington, but TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez and veteran reporter Jaisal Noor were on the ground speaking directly to organizers and attendees about why they were marching, why it’s important, and what feels different about this moment.
Studio Production: Jaisal Noor
Post-Production: Cameron Granadino
Yara Shoufani: Free, free Palestine!
Protesters: Free, free Palestine!
Yara Shoufani: Long live Palestine!
Protesters: Long live Palestine!
Yara Shoufani: Long live Palestine!
Protesters: Long live Palestine!
Yara Shoufani: Justice is our demand!
Protesters: Justice is our demand!
Yara Shoufani: No peace on stolen land!
Protesters: No peace on stolen land!
Maximillian Alvarez: This Maximillian Alvarez for The Real News Network. I’m standing in downtown Washington DC on Saturday, Nov. 4. Behind me, you see the thousands upon thousands of people who have come to Washington DC for the March on Washington for Palestine. People around the country are here to demand an end to Israel’s genocidal bombing of Gaza, here to demand an end to the 75-year Israeli occupation of Palestine.
For the past few hours, we’ve been hearing speakers on the stage just over to my left. And right now the march is about to begin heading towards the White House. We are here on the ground for The Real News Network talking to folks about why they’re here, why this is important, and what feels different about this moment.
Yara Shoufani: So my name is Yara Shoufani. I’m here with the Palestinian Youth Movement, and we are one of the organizers of today’s March on DC, which is the largest Palestine march in DC in US history. We are here to demand an end to the genocide against the Palestinian people with three central demands: We’re calling for an immediate ceasefire; we are calling for an end to US military aid to Israel; and we are calling to lift the siege on Gaza which, for 17 years, has suffocated the people of Gaza and turned Gaza into an open-air prison.
Maximillian Alvarez: So can you say a little more about PYM, about the work that y’all have been doing for years up until now, and what feels so different about this moment?
Yara Shoufani: So the Palestinian Youth Movement is an organization of Palestinian Arab youth. We have chapters across the US, Canada, and Europe, and we are fighting for a free Palestine. And the PYM has been working tirelessly for years on this issue. And this moment feels like a turning point in history for us, and for the Palestinian movement in general. But at the same time, this moment is the culmination of 75 years long of our people’s struggle against the colonization of Palestine, fighting to return to our homeland, fighting to end the genocide against our people, to break down the apartheid walls, to shut down the military checkpoints, and to end US funding to Israel – Which, in the last two days, the US government has voted to send an additional $14.5 billion to the Israeli regime. We are talking about the United States government rewarding Israeli’s genocide, and we are here as the Palestinian Youth Movement, along with the masses of the United States, the masses of the world, to say that we will not be silent, and we will fight until this genocide ends and until we see a free Palestine.
Noura Erakat: Even though the majority of the world, the majority of Americans support an immediate, an immediate end to the carnage and destruction of Gaza, only six out of 535 members of this cowardly, decrepit Congress have endorsed a ceasefire [crowd cheers]. Every single human rights instrument ever drafted was meant to prevent these atrocities.
Merveen Adwan: 75 years ago, we’ve been under attack to leave our land. The only fault Palestinian did, these Palestinians were born in their land. My grandpa, 75 years ago, he was farming and working in his house, on his farm, when the bomb fell on his house and they had to flee to Gaza. And then my dad has to flee to Lebanon. And they also bombed Lebanon, and we had to flee to Egypt. The Oslo Agreement and all this political work didn’t help Palestinian people to live in peace. 75 years of suffering, losing people close to you, finding them hurt all the time. And even after we get our citizenship, I’m not able to visit my family there. My dad died in Gaza and I was not able to visit and see him because the border is always closed.
Violence creates violence. Violence creates anger. Anger… It’s not like before 75 years, it stays only in Gaza. Palestinians now are all over the world because they kicked us [out]. We had to flee our land. So you find Palestinians in America, you find Palestinians in Britain. All over the world.
We are seeing people every day dying there. In Jerusalem, they are dying. They take their houses and take our youth. In Jenin, in Nablus, West Bank, all over. Gaza is so bad because they are literally, it’s genocide. They are doing genocide in Gaza. They’re killing everyone. Yesterday you just bombed five hospitals. People in ambulances, they bombed them. They killed them. And all over the world, they are, the governors in all over the world, you want to get rid of Palestinians. Is it doable? It’s not. It’s not doable. We are not going down. Gaza will keep fighting and Palestinians will keep fighting, we’ll keep fighting, peaceful way, and our resistance will keep fighting the right way.
Jihad Alniser: Because there’s a lot of kids dying in Gaza. We’ve got to make sure that we know that they’re dying, that we’re aware of their deaths, and we’re protesting to prevent more deaths.
Maximillian Alvarez: And you’re in ninth grade. You should be focused on school, on living your life, and yet, you have to care about this stuff. Can I ask just what it feels like for someone like you in ninth grade to watch what’s going on in Palestine right now?
Jihad Alniser: I’ve seen all the graphic pictures. I’ve seen everything in Palestine. At this point, there’s no limit for what I can’t see. I’ve seen everything.
Mohammed el-Kurd: I called my father earlier, I told him I was coming to this march. He said, stay away from the cameras. We’re all afraid, but this fear does not compare. They want us to think that we are paying personal prices, but we have our community. If they come for you, if they come for you, if they take your job, if they fire you from school, if they expel you, do not think of yourself as a casualty. You are not a casualty. You are fuel for the movement [crowd cheers]. You are part of the struggle.
Hannah Priscilla Craig: So I’m an artist and cultural worker. I work with The People’s Forum, and in the last three weeks we have come together, more than 8,000 artists and cultural workers have signed on to a letter, “Artists Against Apartheid,” calling for solidarity with Palestine, recognizing the apartheid nature of Israel, and recognizing that as artists and cultural workers, it’s our responsibility, it’s our duty to use our skills, use our craft in the way that we know it forms culture. And so, needing to really be present, be active, and use the tools that we have to struggle and to fight and be part of this movement for Palestine.
Well, we’re in Washington, DC of course, in the United States, in the heart of empire, in the belly of the beast. We’re about to march to the White House. This is an incredible show of solidarity with Palestine. I don’t think we’ve seen something like this ever before in terms of solidarity with Palestine in the United States itself. And this moment is really specific. I think we’re seeing people come out in numbers that we’ve never seen, people understanding the situation more clearly than ever before. So I think it’s important that we participate, that we’re active, and that we don’t let this fight die down. We have to stay strong.
This Thursday, Nov. 9, there will be a huge day of action where we’re going to shut it down. Shut It Down 4 Palestine. You can register in action and become part of the movement at ShutItDown4Palestine.org.
Firas Saleh: My name is Firas Saleh. I am currently living in Durham, North Carolina. My heritage is Palestinian. We are from Silat ad-Dhahr, our original town, and it is a town by Nablus. And I have only been one time in my whole life. And that one time, we were held on the border for six hours trying to come inside, and we were just tourists. And in that one instance, they checked our documents, they called our businesses back home, make sure that we’re legitimate. And it’s just a humiliating experience. I had one humiliating experience. I cannot imagine the daily humiliation that our brothers and sisters go through over there.
So I’m here to show my pride in the Palestinian people, my people, and we just want a homeland to come to. It’s just that simple. We want peace. We want a homeland, and we hope for it.
Nihad Awad: No votes. No votes in Michigan. No votes in Arizona [crowd cheers]. No votes in Georgia [crowd cheers]. No votes in Nevada [crowd cheers]. No votes in Wisconsin [crowd cheers]. No votes in Pennsylvania [crowd cheers]. No votes in Ohio [crowd cheers]. No votes for you anywhere [crowd cheers] if you will not call for a ceasefire now.
Nasser Beydoun: Well, we’re here at Freedom Plaza in Washington DC with all these people, hundreds of thousands of people that want a ceasefire, that want to end the genocide in Gaza. And these are people who have come together for the cause. And I think this is going to be an inflection point because come November, Joe Biden’s going to see that his blind support for Israel is going to cost him the election.
Nick Tilsen: My mother is a matriarch and a revolutionary from the Oglála Lakota people. My grandfather was a Jewish anti-Zionist organizer who stood with Palestine since the Six Day War [crowd cheers], and he embedded that into my heart. So I’m here with you, with my brothers, with my sisters, with my relatives. No matter what they have done to try to wipe us out from history, to try to erase us, to put us through boarding schools, to take our land, to try to take our language, they were not successful. So we are here with you, and in this battle, we will not stop, no matter what [crowd cheers].
In this historical moment, we must remember our ancestors. We must remember our elders who prayed for this moment one day. They prayed, they sacrificed. No matter what they’ve ever done, it wasn’t for nothing, because we will, together, achieve revolution and the liberation of all of our people everywhere [crowd cheers]. One Cuban revolutionary once said, once said that “Revolution is not a bed of roses. It is a struggle between the [future and the past].” My relatives, we are in struggle, therefore we are in revolution. [inaudible][crowd cheers].
Hala Alahmad: My name is Hala Alahmad. I’m from Palestine, and also nationality as a Jordanian because we moved from Palestine to Jordan, and we stayed in the refugee camps. Basically, I was born in refugee camps. And because we have so many refugee camps in Jordan, because it’s close to Palestine. My father, when he came from Palestine to Jordan, past the Jordan River, he was walking because they told him to leave as soon as possible, and the only thing he grabbed with him, the document, the deed of his land, his father’s lands. And we have around 500 acres, and this is like a small sample. This is from the Osman Empire, and it was registered in Turkey and Jerusalem. And we have a copy here. And this page, this paper, it’s 100 years old, 140 years old, and one day when we come back, we’re allowed to go back to Palestine, and we hope we retrieve our land.
Maximillian Alvarez: Can I ask you, if you could talk directly to Americans who think that this conflict just started on Oct. 7, 2023, what it means to have documents showing how far back your own family’s displacement goes?
Hala Alahmad: Exactly. And the problem is, when we say conflict, it’s not a conflict. People came to our land, took our home, they told us, leave. Under which right, we don’t know. And the problem is the media, nobody knows here in America what’s going on, and they think it’s both of them, they think, they should stop fighting. But the problem is, they are the stealers. They stole our land, and they’re claiming they’re innocent. And we are the victims. They’re playing the victims, but we are the victims.
Because I have to, if I stayed with my grandfather, we have houses, we have money. I don’t have to come to this country and tolerate all this stuff from other people as a stranger and a Muslim and Arabic, and they ruin our life basically. Nobody pushed me to come. They push us to leave. And that’s why it’s sad. Now we live here, we have to accept it, and we have to say, okay, whatever you call me, you know we’re here.
Even the Palestinians outside of Gaza and the West Bank, they are suffering too. We have racism, and they always call us names, and I denied I was born in a refugee camp. I’m so proud, proud of myself. I was born in refugee camps, and I made it here, and I’ll prove to the world, we have our rights. And I’m so happy. My grandfather now, he’s so proud of me. To bring the document, it was between his hand, and here in Washington DC.
Lamis Deek: And the truth is, the Western world is a lie [crowd cheers]. The truth is that when they said they were bringing freedom, they were bringing fascism [crowd cheers]. That when they said they were bringing the only democracy in the Middle East, they were bringing domination and barbaric colonization [crowd cheers]. That when they said they were the most moral army, they were the most monstrous and murderous that we have seen in modern history [crowd cheers]. That America’s trusted ally is nothing but a cult of torturers. A cult of torturers.
I’m an attorney. We filed a notice and demand to the members of Congress letting them know that they will be prosecuted in criminal courts [crowd cheers] all over the world. That they will be sanctioned like they like to sanction us all over the world [crowd cheers]. The days of just speaking have ended. So when we tell you, do not be afraid, this is about your future, our words are not empty. Three weeks ago we convened an army of lawyers for all of you here and all over the world [crowd cheers].
Michaela Yamine: Hi, I’m Michaela Yamine. I’m an organizer with UAW at the National Institutes of Health – Not representing the National Institutes of Health right now.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah, baby!
Griffin Mahon: My name’s Griffin Mahon. I’m a temporary staff organizer with the United Auto Workers, supporting the fellows at the National Institutes of Health to form a union.
Maximillian Alvarez: And can you guys say a little bit about why you’re out here today and why it’s important that the labor movement get involved in this fight?
Michaela Yamine: We’re out here today because there’s a genocide happening in Palestine, and that’s fucked up.
Griffin Mahon: An injury to one is an injury to all, and American-made bombs are being used to kill the families of Americans in Palestine, in addition to thousands and thousands of other people. And our government should not support that.
Maximillian Alvarez: If you could talk to our fellow workers, our fellow unionist folks in the labor movement about why it is important to not only fight for our rights and dignity in the workplace, but all around the world right now. What is your message to other working folks around the US about why they should get involved in this fight?
Michaela Yamine: Our politicians aren’t representing us. In labor, we’re organized and we have the ability to put pressure on politicians, and when we come together and use collective bargaining that we use in our workplaces to improve our working conditions, we can extend that to the rest of the world.
Griffin Mahon: The United States is the most powerful, wealthiest country in the world, but the people here have some of the poorest living conditions compared to comparable countries around the world. And the reason for that is that people who work, and the unions that represent us, and all the people who don’t have unions have not combined in order to politically fight the politicians in the Democratic and Republican Party who represent the interests of political elites and the capitalists.
Maximillian Alvarez: Anything else you guys wanted to say before we wrap?
Griffin Mahon: Free Palestine.
Michaela Yamine: Free Palestine.
Vijay Prashad: You are a war criminal [crowd cheers]. President Joe Biden, you are a war criminal [crowd cheers]. Prosecutor Kareem Khan of the International Criminal Court, we put you on notice. This is not the culmination of anything. This is the beginning [crowd cheers]. This is the beginning. This is where it starts. It starts here. We march from here. We tell them from here [crowd cheers]. History begins now. From the river to the sea!
Protesters: From the river to the sea!
Vijay Prashad: From the river to the sea!
Protesters: From the river to the sea!
Protester: Palestine will be free!
Protesters: Palestine will be free!
Ameer Khattab: We’re out here today in Washington to make sure our voices are heard. Fighting for my people back home, man. There’s people dying. There’s my family dying. There’s a lot of people dying back there. And it’s sad watching our own people dying when we can’t do nothing about it. So us out here talking, maybe our voices will be heard by this motherfucker Biden. Maybe he’ll do some ceasefire and end this shit and do something about it. So all these people out here today, their voice is going to be heard one day, inshallah.
Maximillian Alvarez: And as we know, this fight did not start on Oct. 7. We’re talking about a 75-year-long occupation. And when I was growing up, no one talked about this. No one talked about the Palestinian side. I just wanted to ask, do you feel like that is changing among the new generation? What are you hearing? What are you sensing?
Ameer Khattab: Oh yeah, this right here is going to make a big change, because 75 years we’ve been occupied, but the moment we do something, they call us terrorists. But all what we’re really doing is protecting our home and trying to get our home back. So us doing this, we’re not terrorists. They’re the terrorists killing innocent kids. A lot of people know what’s going on in the world, but they stay quiet. Social media tries to hide it for them. But look at how many people are here. They know what’s going on.
Maximillian Alvarez: And what would you say to folks out there who are, maybe they want to get involved, but they are afraid of the pushback they’ll get? Maybe they are being pressured into silence. If you could talk to people, young people, working people around the country and around the world about why they should get involved in this fight, what would you tell them?
Ameer Khattab: I’d tell them, stop bitching and go out there and say the truth. Go out there and say what’s really going on. Don’t hide. Don’t be scared that something’s going to happen to you. I’m over here speaking into the camera, showing my face because I don’t give a fuck. I’m out here to tell other people and tell the world that your voice needs to be heard and you got to stop being scared, and go out there and tell the truth.
Eugene Puryear: They killed tens of thousands of Palestinian people. Even before what we’ve seen now, they killed thousands of children. From 2000 to just this year before this conflict, they were killing 100 children every year. That’s what I condemn. The brutality of the Israeli apartheid forces. The whole reason why the world is standing up right now is because our hearts are in Palestine, because we know it’s one of the purest struggles for liberation in the world today [crowd cheers]. So of course they want to demonize it.
But let me tell you this. When the Indigenous people in this country stood for their land, they demonized them. When the enslaved people of this country and Haiti rose to defend their human rights, they demonized them. When the people of Algeria rose for their human rights, they demonized them [crowd cheers]. So we’re not going to allow the Palestinians to be demonized. They have the right to stand up, the right to defend themselves, and the right to resist. Free, free Palestine!
Protesters: Free, free Palestine!
Eugene Puryear: Free, free Palestine!
Protesters: Free, free Palestine!
Merveen Adwan: My American people, I have lived here in the USA for 20 years now. I was here on 9/11. And 9/11, it was hard time for all foreigners, not American people here. But I remember my neighbor, she baked a cake and she came to visit me to calm me down, and she said, if you need shopping, if you need any help, I will help you. I’m here for you. So I trust my people. I trust American people. If they know the truth, they will stand with us. If you count, how many Americans do you find? We are all American. Different color, different background, but we are all American. We support the rights. We want justice. All Americans want justice. Our money, you send it to different countries to bomb people. We need it here. We need it for school. We need it for our hospitals. We need it for healthcare. You’re wasting money on killing people.
Yara Shoufani: The violence did not begin in this recent wave. In 2009, Israel committed a mass genocide on the people of Gaza, murdering thousands of Palestinians. In 2014, again, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza murdered. In 2018, when Palestinians protested peacefully in what was dubbed the Great March of Return, because 80% of the Palestinians in Gaza are actually refugees from neighboring villages and towns who were kicked out of their villages and made refugees inside the open-air prison of Gaza. And when these people marched to the wall to demand to return to their homeland, they were shot en masse by Israeli snipers.
And so, really, we are talking about 75-years-long of a brutal colonial regime, of brutal violence, and the only way to end this violence is through the liberation of the Palestinian people. And so we are calling on the American people who we know do not support this genocide. 66% of the American public want a cease fire now. We see behind us tens of thousands, potentially 100,000 people behind us who are here to march to the White House to make their voices heard. We are calling on the American people. We are calling on people across the world to join us, to join this movement. Get out onto the streets to make your voices heard, to put pressure to end this genocide.
And we are participating and leading a national, or international shutdown on Nov. 9 to say that we will not continue with business as usual, while the bombs ran down on Gaza, while over 10,000 Palestinians have been murdered, almost half of whom are children, thousands trapped under the rubble. We refuse to be silent. Gaza is not alone.
What you see here is a refusal to be silent. The masses have made their voices heard. We refuse to be silent. And this is a historical struggle. This is a struggle for freedom, a struggle for liberation. Gaza is just a small, small piece of land, but it is at the heart of the struggle, the global struggle against reactionary forces, against colonization, against Western-led imperialism.
And we are calling on the masses of the world to not be afraid. You have a movement of people behind you. Join us, and let’s fight for freedom, just as we saw the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Just as we have seen, time after time, people who are fighting for justice. We know that we are standing on the right side of history, and we know that we are stronger in numbers. So join us. Do not be afraid. And we will win, and we will fight this fight together.
Hala Alahmad: Just treat us equal with the Israeli and Israel. We’re not asking to kick them out, leave the country. Stay. But we have to have rights like them, and we don’t have rights there. Leave Gaza alone. Give them the rights. Let them live [inaudible] people, and we’ll be okay with this.
And America, they should stop. The American people, please do not pay your taxes or everything to outside the country, like all the support. Why do we have to be police? I’m American. Why do you have to be police outside the country, paying money in Iraq, spending money in Iraq and in Syria, in Ukraine, and now in Gaza? Why? And here, the economy is so bad and the people here are suffering. $1 trillion he sent there for weapons, killing children. Anyway, I hope he opens his eyes and sees the truth.
Maximillian Alvarez: For The Real News Network, this is Maximillian Alvarez, signing off from Washington DC. Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Fight like hell. Solidarity forever.