‘No votes for Genocide Joe’: Thousands demand ceasefire at DC pro-Palestinian protest

Progressive participants split on whether they will support US president against Trump in November election due to his support for Israel in war against Hamas

With the US Capitol in the background, demonstrators rally during the March on Washington for Gaza at Freedom Plaza in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
With the US Capitol in the background, demonstrators rally during the March on Washington for Gaza at Freedom Plaza in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON — Thousands of demonstrators converged opposite the White House on Saturday to call for an end to Israeli military action against Hamas, as part of a global day of action against the war in Gaza.

People in the capital held aloft signs questioning US President Joe Biden’s viability as a presidential candidate because of his staunch support for Israel in the nearly 100-day war against Hamas. Some of the signs read: “No votes for Genocide Joe,” “Biden has blood on his hands” and “Let Gaza live.”

The US and Israel have rejected calls for a ceasefire, noting that it would leave in place the Hamas leadership that presided over the October 7 terror onslaught and that has pledged to repeatedly carry out such attacks until Israel is dismantled. Some 1,200 Israelis — mostly civilians — were brutally murdered in the surprise October 7 assault and another roughly 240 were taken hostage in the deadliest attack in the country’s history and the deadliest for Jews since the Holocaust.

Vendors in Washington were also selling South African flags as protesters chanted slogans in support of the country whose accusations of genocide against Israel prompted the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, to take up the case.

The US has dismissed the genocide allegation as “meritless,” noting that Hamas is the side with genocidal aims and that South Africa’s case distracts from serious efforts aimed at both limiting civilian casualties while maintaining Israel’s right to defend itself.

Dan Devries, a New York resident, said he attended the protest because he wants to see a free Gaza, but that he wouldn’t vote for either Biden or possible Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Demonstrators carry signs as they rally during the March on Washington for Gaza at Freedom Plaza in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“I see this war as part of the US’s drive to offset its economic decline by engaging in continual war,” claimed Devries.

Washington resident Phil Kline held up a sign calling for Pope Francis to excommunicate Biden.

“I know he’s a devout Catholic. Maybe he will take this issue seriously when the pope removes him from the church. There’s no justification for bombing civilians,” Kline said, though he added he still intends to vote for Biden in the November elections.

Biden has previously described Israel’s bombing campaign as “indiscriminate,” and said on Monday he had been working “quietly” with the Israeli government to encourage it to reduce its attacks and “significantly get out of Gaza.”

Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the anti-war group CodePink, told The Associated Press that the moniker “Genocide Joe” will stick with Biden for a certain segment of the community because of his handling of the war in Gaza.

“I think the Democrats are playing with fire in many ways — playing with fire in that they’re supporting a genocide in Gaza but also playing with fire in terms of their own future,” Benjamin said.

Demonstrators rally during the March on Washington for Gaza at Freedom Plaza in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Jake and Ida Braford, a young couple from Richmond, Virginia, who brought their two small children to the protest, said they were unsure of whether to vote for Biden in November.

“We’re pretty disheartened,” Ida Braford said. “Seeing what is happening in Gaza, and the government’s actions makes me wonder what is our vote worth?”

The plight of children in the Gaza Strip was the focus of a huge march in London on Saturday, symbolized by the appearance of Little Amal, a 3.5-meter (11.5-foot) puppet originally meant to highlight the suffering of Syrian refugees.

The puppet had become a human rights emblem during an 8,000-kilometer (4,970-mile) journey from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester in July 2001.

Nearly two-thirds of the 23,843 people killed during Israel’s campaign in Gaza have been women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 8,500 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Israeli says it makes efforts to avoid civilian casualties, but that these are unavoidable in a war against a terror group operating from within the civilian population, using innocents as human shields.

Protesters hold up banners, flags and placards as they walk along the Embankment by the River Thames during an anti-Israel demonstration, in London, January 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

March organizers had said the Palestinian children would accompany Little Amal through the streets of central London.

“On Saturday Amal walks for those most vulnerable and for their bravery and resilience,“ said Amir Nizar Zuabi, artistic director of The Walk Productions. “Amal is a child and a refugee and today in Gaza childhood is under attack, with an unfathomable number of children killed. Childhood itself is being targeted. That’s why we walk.”

A pro-Israel rally was set to take place in London on Sunday.

The London march was one of several others being held in European cities including Paris, Rome, Milan and Dublin, where thousands also marched along the Irish capital’s main thoroughfare to protest Israel’s military operations against Hamas.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags, held placards critical of the Irish, US and Israeli governments and chanted, “Free, free Palestine.″

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel activists and supporters wave flags and carry placards during a National March for Palestine in central London on January 13, 2024. (HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)

In Rome, hundreds of demonstrators descended on a boulevard near the famous Colosseum, with some carrying signs reading, “Stop Genocide.”

At one point during the protest, amid the din of sound effects mimicking exploding bombs, a number of demonstrators lied down in the street and pulled white sheets over themselves as if they were corpses, while others knelt beside them, their palms daubed in red paint.

Many hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Paris’ Republic Square to set off on a march calling for an immediate cease-fire, an end to the war, a lifting of the blockade on Gaza and to impose sanctions on Israel.

Marching protesters waved the Palestinian flag and held aloft placards and banners reading, “From Gaza to Paris. Resistance.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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