Palestine Rally

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Thousands of demonstrators are projected to manifest Saturday at a rally in the nation’s capital to advocate for Palestinian rights and an immediate cessation to Israeli defense maneuvers in Gaza.

The assembly commemorates the 76th anniversary of what is known as the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe, which refers to the exodus of approximately 700,000 Palestinians who escaped or were displaced from what is now Israel upon the state’s inception in 1948.

Rally organizers, in an unconventional move, have foregone an application for permits from the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the National Mall. These permits, which include attendance approximations, are a customary procedure for substantial rallies or protests.

“Permits are requisite for any structured activity with the intent to guarantee the safety of the public, protect park assets, and preserve a commemorative ambiance where appropriate,” stated Mike Litterst, the agency’s director of communications for the National Mall. “In the event a permit application is not submitted, all efforts are made to uphold the First Amendment privileges of those visiting the areas under our protection with priority granted to safeguarding both patrons and park resources.”

Given the absence of permit filings, no estimates of the protest’s magnitude have been determined, and the Park Service has suspended the provision of official crowd estimations for gatherings on the National Mall.

In the month of January, thousands of pro-Palestinian activists surged the National Mall in one of the District of Columbia’s more extensive protests in recent memory.

This year’s demonstration is fueled by indignation over the ongoing siege of Gaza. The recent Israel-Hamas skirmish initiated when Hamas and other militants encroached upon southern Israel on October 7, resulting in approximately 1,200 fatalities and the capture of an additional 250 individuals. Palestinian militants retain approximately 100 captives, and the Israeli military has claimed the lives of more than 35,000 in Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between regular citizens and combatants.

The rally is further fueled by anger over the violent dismantling of numerous pro-Palestinian protest encampments at universities across the nation. In recent weeks, persistent encampments have been dispersed by police at more than 60 institutions, including George Washington University, situated near the White House.

In addition to urging Israel and the Biden administration to immediately cease hostilities in Gaza, the demonstrators are anticipated to advocate for the right of Palestinian refugees to return — a longstanding Israeli red line in protracted on-again, off-again negotiations.

Subsequent to the Arab-Israeli conflict that ensued Israel’s establishment, Israel withheld permission for their return as it would have culminated in a Palestinian majority within Israel’s borders. Consequently, they evolved into a seemingly permanent refugee community that has now swelled to approximately 6 million, the majority residing in slum-like urban refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In Gaza, refugees and their descendants constitute roughly three-quarters of the populace.