Thousands gather in DC to protest AIPAC Conference
A crowd of people gathered in front of the White House on Sunday to demand the right of return for Palestinians and protest the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Protesters then marched to the Walter Washington Convention Center, where the pro-Israel lobbying group is hosting its annual convention. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz each promised the group that they would be bias and unequivocally stand with Israel.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the White House and heard a range of activists, organizers, and religious leaders give speeches, before marching to the convention center. During the march and in front of the convention center, protesters chanted slogans like “Free, free Palestine,” and “Shut AIPAC down”. The protesters stood at the steps leading to the convention center’s entrance and continued to chant in front of police presence; conference attendees observed from windows and the streets, with the occasional middle finger flashed at the crowd. The protesters at one point unfurled a giant Palestinian flag in front of the center.
Participants came from across the United States. Some from Los Angeles, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago and New York. Several organizations also took part in the protest, including Veterans for Peace, ANSWER Coalition, the DC chapter of the Black Panthers, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST), People’s Power Assembly, and Neturei Karta (Orthodox Jews United Against Zionism).
The protest was organized by Abbas Hamideh on behalf of al-Awda,the Palestine Right To Return Coalition, which is a 100 percent Palestinian led organization, and co-sponsored by ANSWER Coalition. The goal of the protest was to, “support the just cause of Palestine nationally and expose AIPAC. We wanted to bring the maximum exposure to the American audience in understanding AIPAC’s destructive role and how it affects US foreign policy,” according to Hamideh.
The anti-AIPAC demonstration drew in thousands of protesters, exceeding Hamideh’s expectations. An estimated 5,000 people attended the march.
“The rally overall brought exposure and energy to activists, not only to those who participated but those cheering us on all over social media from around the world. AIPAC was definitely put on notice and their members saw that we meant business,” said Hamideh. “We were heard and were unstoppable in getting our just message across to the world.”
The demonstration kicked off with several speakers before and after the march, including Iyad Burnat, the director of “Five Broken Cameras,” and Miko Peled, an activist and author of “The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.”
“I’m here to support the call to free Palestine and the right of refugees to return; to end the violent, racist, brutal regime; and to protest the AIPAC convention, a group that lobbies and supports the brutal regime that’s occupied Palestine since 1948,” Peled, who travels and speaks extensively on the issue in addition to working with the popular resistance, said.
Faazia Hassan, who helped organize the demonstration, said the efforts to support Palestine and protest AIPAC will only become larger in scale.
The AIPAC conference began on Sunday March 20 and will end on Tuesday March 22. In addition to nearly all of the presidential hopefuls, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to address the conference.
The above photos were taken by Nicole Hanhan. She is a Palestinian-American photographer, humorist, memoirist and purveyor of finery. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her baby daughter and chivalrous husband.