Pro-Palestine activists highlight Rafah during Memorial Day in US

Pro-Palestine activists highlight Rafah during Memorial Day in US
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the US used the occasion of Memorial Day to highlight Israel's military campaign in Gaza.
3 min read
Washington, DC
28 May, 2024
Pro-Palestinian protesters face off with police near the Washington Monument in the US capital. [Brooke Anderson/TNA]

In Washington, DC and in cities across the US on Monday, demonstrators, largely led by Jews and Palestinians, used an annual holiday honouring US service members who lost their lives in war to highlight Israeli airstrikes on Rafah over the weekend.

Under the dark clouds of a growing storm on the east coast, a Jewish-led group of several dozen gathered by the Washington Monument in anticipation of the annual Memorial Day parade down Constitution Avenue in the nation's capital.

Organisers of the demonstration used the occasion to highlight their grievances of US taxpayer money not being sufficiently allocated for education, healthcare and other social services, but instead being used in abundance for the Israeli military, which is now targeting Rafah, following a nearly eight-month military campaign against Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 in the enclave.

"We've seen the footage of Rafah this weekend. We are devastated. We are not here to celebrate with some parade," said an organiser holding a megaphone. "People of conscience, we are growing in numbers, and we are winning. We will take back the power." 

Live Story

She reminded the crowd that the 2024 primaries in Washington, DC are on 4 June and urged people to vote for candidates that support a ceasefire or to write "divest" on their ballot.

"There's no Memorial Day without talking about what's happening across the world," she said, followed by cheers from the crowd. "We say no to the war machine."

The impact of war can be lifelong, and for many it is multigenerational. A Palestinian American living in Washington, DC called Lina, using only her first name, told The New Arab, "It's about the right to live, the right for me to see my family, the right for Arab people to see their families, the right for people to wake up and fall asleep, knowing that they will wake up and be alive, and literally have a normal life."

She continued, "I am half Palestinian, and a proud one." She said her family is from a town near Jaffa that is no longer on the map. None of her Palestinian family were able to stay, though they managed to take stones from their home before they were expelled. 

Live Story

"They are no more. Those that lived are no longer in Palestine. The village, with the war, it became somebody else's," she said. "I don't know how people go on with their daily life choosing not to know this is happening. This is annihilation."

As the parade grew close, with the sounds of marching bands and bagpipes approaching, the demonstrators began walking down the grassy hill. They were immediately met with a group of police cars and officers, appearing to slightly outnumber the demonstrators, blocking their way to the parade. Undeterred, they continued chanting. The police prevented multiple attempts by the demonstrators to walk around them.

The demonstrators then changed locations twice more, settling on a street corner closer to the parade. This caught the eyes of nearby pedestrians, some of whom joined in the gathering. The police continued to block the demonstrators from Constitution Avenue, even after the parade had wrapped up.

Memorial Day is an annual tradition to honour fallen soldiers of wars. It is believed to have originated with African Americans after the end of the civil war to honour Union soldiers that had been captured and to give them a proper burial. That legacy has largely been replaced by corporate-sponsored parades, flags, barbecues and drinking.