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73 Years After ‘The Catastrophe’ Thousands Of Protesters In L.A. Marched To Defend Palestine This Weekend

4:32 PM PDT on May 17, 2021

[dropcap size=big]O[/dropcap]n Saturday, thousands of people gathered at the federal building in Westwood at noon to march towards the Israeli consulate in support of Palestine, marking one of the largest pro-Palestine marches in recent Los Angeles history on the 73rd anniversary of "al-Nakba"—“the catastrophe”—a day when nearly 80 percent of Palestinians were driven out of their homeland and into refugee camps.

Two LA County Sheriffs set up a barricade.
A protestor holding a sign kneels near a barricade next to two cans of spray paint.

Arriving at the protest was not easy. Despite reportedly securing a permit to march from the federal building to the Israeli consulate on Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles Sheriffs barricaded the intersection of Wilshire Blvd and Veteran Street and California Highway Patrol closed off freeway exits, making it hard for the community to get to the protest or find parking. Despite the difficulties, thousands still arrived—a display of determination and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle that was echoed all over the world this weekend.

A protester cops their hands together and shouts while protestors hold flags in the background.

For the last week the Israeli government has been bombing the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory bordering Israel. The air strikes have reportedly targeted over 1,000 residential units, schools, and primary healthcare clinics in addition to major roads that lead to hospitals, according to Palestine’s Ministry of Information. As of Monday, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed. Under Secretary General John Holmes, the United Nations declared the Gaza Strip an open air prison.

Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, has fired thousands of rockets into Israeli towns, killing at least 10 residents. The Israeli government has claimed that 90 percent of Hamas missiles have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system, an anti-missile system that experts have raised doubts about in the past. 

"End all aid to Israel US is funding genocide" a banner reads.
A young kid sitting on someone's shoulder with their hands raised in the air holding peace signs, holds a paper banner in front of their face.
A man holds a young child in one hand and a flag in the other.

“Bombing innocent children is not an act of self-defense anywhere,” said Eman Khaleq, a Palestinian mother who attended the march with friends and family. Khaleq cited the May 7 attacks at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the three holiest sites in Islam. At the Mosque, Palestinians were in prayer in their last days of Ramadan when Israeli forces used tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse worshippers at the mosque

8 people pray on a patch of green grass

“Attacking Palestinians at home, in the streets, and during our holiest time of the year Ramadan is also not self-defense,” Khaleq said referencing the forced eviction of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, an area of occupied East Jerusalem.

Portrait of a protestor holding a flag wearing a ski mask.

Abby Martin, journalist and documentary filmmaker of Gaza Fights For Freedom, addressed the recent attacks by the Israeli government on the media. “Israel blew up international media outlets because they don’t want them to tell the truth,” Martin said referencing the bombing of the 12-story al-Jalaa Building, where the TV network Al-Jazeera, Associated Press, and other international media outlets were located. The airstrikes took down three buildings and killed at least 42 people.

Connecting The Dots

Later that afternoon, thousands gathered around a truck that led the march down Wilshire Blvd. “We are here today to stand and say that the Israeli Apartheid regime needs to end now, and the US government needs to stop the 3.3 billion dollar aid that goes to bombing Palestine.” Adan Plascencia, an organizer with the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), one of the organizers of the event, told L.A. TACO. “Viva viva Palestina,” (long live Palestine) chants rang out.

Residents held signs of solidarity out of their windows as marchers passed by. One sign read, “Jews for Palestine.” As supporters gathered at the Israeli consulate, the energy and momentum did not let down.

Thousands of people march down Wilshire Blvd.

Organizations from all walks of life attended the march including the National Lawyers Guild, People’s City Council and L.A. Tenants Union. Al Corado, a candidate running for Los Angeles City Council District 13, compared what’s happening in Gaza to the violent clearing of Echo Park Lake two months ago, "The violent displacement and continued assault on oppressed people is something the entire world needs to pay attention to whether it is in places like Echo Park or the Middle East.” 

Protestors climb up scaffolding on Wilshire Blvd.

Lizette Montes from the L.A. Tenants Union drew a similar conclusion: “What is happening in Palestine is what we are also fighting here in Los Angeles with evictions. We have to stand with the Palestinian people.” According to UCLA School of Law and the Public Counsel, in the last eight years more than half a million renters were evicted in Los Angeles.

A protestor holding a bull-horn sits on someone elses shoulders.Later in the afternoon, the march wrapped around the consulate back towards the Federal building, where it ended peacefully. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department told The Times that no arrests were made. At around 3:30 PM, the march officially ended, but you couldn’t tell because the energy was still running high. “Within our lifetime, Palestine will be free,” a group of young people started chanting toward the end of the day, suggesting that the fight for Palestine is ongoing and that they are ready to continue to take the streets.

Photos by Kemal Cilengir for L.A. TACO.

Portrait of three older women.
Two young protestors hold hands as they march.
People march down Wilshire Blvd.
Dozens of people raise their fists and flags in the air.
A protestor holds a flag as they march.
Protestors holding signs that read "the world stands with Palestine" and "free Palestine."

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