Photos by Semantha Raquel Norris (SFVS/el Sol)

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through downtown Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon calling for an end to the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. This is one in a series of protests across the U.S. calling for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Hamas war. 

“I attended the march in solidarity with the Palestinian people, in their struggle to come out and be vocal against oppression and injustice at a time that we see it being condoned in every facet of our society, like in the media and in institutions,” said Marjina Haque, a valley resident and a student at  California State University, Northridge (CSUN), who re-initiated the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at CSUN last year. 

There were many students like Haque who protested.

They marched slowly down Hill Street with signs in hand chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” 

The demonstration stretched several blocks, with thousands in attendance. 

“We are here today demanding for [the] immediate end to the illegal siege and blockade of Gaza,” said one organizer from the Palestinian Youth Movement. “As a Palestinian diaspora, seeing this many people here gives me hope.”

The war between Israel and Hamas has led Angelenos on both sides to protest.

Last week, thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched from the Israeli Consulate to the Federal Building in West LA, followed the next day by thousands of pro-Israeli demonstrators who marched to the Museum of Tolerance. 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s longest continuing conflicts, beginning in the mid-20th century. 

The current wave of fighting began on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched attacks on Israel, killing more than 1,400 Israelis and capturing about 200 hostages, who have yet to be reunited with their families. 

Since then, Israel has retaliated against Hamas with a series of airstrikes on Gaza, killing Palestinian civilians. At press time, over 6,500 Palestinians have been killed including over 2,500 children, and nearly half of Gaza’s approximately 2.3 million residents have beendisplaced. 

In 2007, Israel implemented a blockade on Gaza, strictly controlling the airspace and surrounding territory – restricting the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza. Since the Oct. 7 attacks, Israel has further constrained resources with a complete cutoff of water, electricity and food. Minimal aid is being allowed to enter Gaza.  

“Being on constant land, water and air siege – where they’re being bombed, they’re being attacked, their resources are cut off from them – I feel like the word genocide better describes it. And I condemn genocide, I am against genocide, and that is why I’m so adamant about my support for Palestine,” said Haque. 

The march on Saturday was peaceful with children and grandparents in attendance. Allies included many Jewish people in solidarity, who emphasized a distinction between Zionism and Judaism. 

“I’m here today because I grew up in a Jewish community who always stressed that ‘never again’ means ‘never again,’” said Eli – who declined to state his last name.

His grandparents were refugees who fled from persecution in Austria in 1938 before the worst years of the Holocaust. The message he got from their story was “don’t let this happen again” to anyone, prompting him to march in support of Palestine and to voice his condemnation of the Israeli bombing of Gaza. 

Black, Indigenous and Latino communities were also among the protestors.

“From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go,” was repeatedly chanted. 

Some protestors carried Mexican flags and held signs that read: “Nadie es libre hasta que todos sean libre”– “nobody is free until everyone is free.”

The demonstrators marched past offices, apartment buildings and people dining at Grand Central Market, eventually circling back to Pershing Square. As protestors began to disperse, some lingered as a small procession of cars drove past the park, waving Palestinian flags and honking their horns. 

More demonstrations are expected as an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza is anticipated, supported by funding from the United States.

“I think one of the most significant things we can do as American taxpayers is condemn where our money is going,” said Haque, “and that’s one of our calls for our government to condemn the genocide and to end all aid to Israel.”