Emergency rally for Rafah near White House draws around 400 protesters

Emergency rally for Rafah near White House draws around 400 protesters
Around 400 people came together on short notice to protest Israel's actions in Rafah, what was once thought to be a 'red line' for the Biden administration.
3 min read
Washington, DC
29 May, 2024
An emergency rally for Rafah brought out hundreds to the White House. [Brooke Anderson/TNA]

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the White House for "an emergency rally for Rafah" Tuesday evening, following a weekend of heavy bombing of the small enclave by Israel.

Around 400 people from different affiliations and backgrounds gathered on short notice to protest what was once thought to be a "red line" for Joe Biden's administration — what appears to be the first steps of a full-scale ground invasion of Rafah, which is seeing growing global condemnation

"Hands off Rafah now!" a man holding a megaphone chanted repeatedly, as a growing crowd facing the White House echoed his words, while drums beat in sync with the chanting. 

It was one of many demonstrations across the US in response to Israel's recent airstrikes on Rafah, part of its nearly eight-month-long war in Gaza that has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

"It's really important that we're out here almost eight months into this genocide, following the recent massacres in Rafah, to continue pressuring the Biden administration to withdraw its support and complicity for the genocide we're witnessing in Gaza," said Yusuf (using only his first name), an organiser with the Palestinian Youth Movement, told The New Arab.

"It was really heart-warming to see so many people come out, especially after all these months, for an emergency action in response to what happened. Especially with all the tragedy and the loss, to see that people are still energetic and people still have the fight in them," said Yusuf, who has family in Gaza that have been displaced, having lost their homes and most of their belongings from Israeli strikes.

Nearby was Hector Alcala, standing in front of the White House fence, holding a sign reading Ceasefire Now with a picture of a severely wounded Palestinian baby who had lost multiple family members to Israel's assault on Gaza. Alcala was there as part of the Vigil for Palestine, a small group that has been gathering daily near the White House for the last two months.

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"We're standing in front of the White House to show our objection to the genocide and all of the policies that are enabling it. And we're demanding this, because we know he can just by picking up the f***ing phone and calling [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and letting him know that he will not have our support. But unfortunately, he's choosing not to do that," he told TNA.

"I've been seeing what's been happening in the news like millions of people, and I'm disgusted that our government is choosing to support this. I don't like that my tax dollars are enabling this," he said.

"I also feel like it's our duty to do something, because a lot of people say: just vote. Well, the vote isn't happening until November. The genocide is happening now. We have to do something now to stop a problem that exists now," he said, still standing in front of the White House after most of the crowd had left, as the sun was setting.

After around two hours of chanting and demonstrating, Yusuf seemed more determined than ever that their message would not be in vain.

He said, "We'll continue to press for a ceasefire, for an end to US complicity in this genocide and for an end to the occupation." 

That evening, news reports began emerging of Israeli tanks advancing into central Rafah in the early hours of the morning local time, a milestone in the war that many have been dreading, likely including Biden, who will now have to determine if this still represents a red line.