Hundreds protest White House correspondents' dinner over Gaza

Hundreds protest White House correspondents' dinner over Gaza
Hundreds turned out on a chilly Saturday evening in Washington to protest the White House Correspondents' Dinner in a show of support for journalists in Gaza.
3 min read
Washington, DC
28 April, 2024
An installation of media vests with the names of journalists killed in Gaza was displayed across the street from the White House Correspondents' Dinner [Brooke Anderson/TNA]

Hundreds of people turned out on a chilly Saturday evening in Washington, DC to protest the White House Correspondents' Dinner in a show of support for journalists in Gaza. 

Media workers in Gaza have asked their counterparts in the US to refrain from attending the black-tie event to protest US support of a war that has killed more than 130 Palestinian journalists.

The initiative, launched earlier this month without much response from US-based journalists, is aimed not just at the US government but also at the Washington media establishment, which has long been criticised for being too cosy with the US administration.

"The Biden administration's ongoing support for Israel’s genocidal policies implicates it directly in the relentless targeting and massacring of journalists in Gaza, including hundreds of our colleagues and their families," reads a letter from Palestinian journalists imploring US-based journalists to boycott the event.

"For journalists to fraternize at an event with President Biden and Vice President Harris would be to normalize, sanitize, and whitewash the administration’s role in genocide," it continues.

Nasser Abu Baker, president of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, said that journalists attending the dinner had to think about their actions in light of Israel's war on Gaza.

“The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, intended to celebrate journalism and the First Amendment, cannot be divorced from the broader context of the administration's involvement in the ongoing killing of and threat against Palestinian journalists," he said.

As the guests arrived at the Hilton Hotel, they awkwardly walked past police barricades and protesters urging them to reconsider attending the event.

Some expressed sympathy with the protesters as they headed to the hotel, while most avoided eye contact. It is unclear if any attendees left the event due to the demonstration, many were coming and going throughout the evening.

Mehdi Hasan, who has previously attended the dinner and is one of the few journalists to publicly boycott the event, expressed his support on X, formerly Twitter, writing, "I decided not to attend today’s dinner (which, to be clear, is hosted by DC journalists not the White House) in solidarity with under-fire Palestinian journalists in Gaza who have called for a boycott."

The crowd of protesters in front of the event on Saturday, estimated at around 400, beat drums, chanted and stayed late into the evening as the last guests left. On the other side of the street, an installation displayed press vests with the names of Palestinian journalists who had lost their lives in the war, along with a news camera and a Palestinian flag. As night fell, small candles were lit in front of the vests.

Filming them from a cafe perched above the hotel entrance were dozens of reporters, a deviation from previous years when jokes at the dinner accounted for most of the event's media coverage. This year, the protesters did their best to ensure that the spotlight was on journalists in Gaza.