SAN FRANCISCO — Protests are growing to unprecedented levels in the Bay Area and across the globe as the U.S. continues its unconditional support of Israel’s genocidal campaign in the Gaza Strip and occupied Palestine.
“As far as I know, this is the largest pro-Palestine protest in the history of the Bay Area,” Seth Morrison, an El Cerrito resident and organizer with human rights organization Jewish Voice for Peace, told the East Bay Echo.
Between 10,000 to 20,000 people were at the Civic Center Plaza and marching through the streets of San Francisco at any given time during the hourslong rally calling for elected officials to support a ceasefire, with a sister rally taking place in Washington, D.C. BART trains going to and from the Civic Center were filled with Palestinian flags and keffiyehs, as well as signs of solidarity. At its peak, demonstrators said the crowd swelled to 50,000 people, including many people from the Tri-City area and Hayward.
Among them was Nestor Castillo, who went to the demonstration with several other members of the Hayward Community Coalition. Castillo told the East Bay Echo it was important that even people from smaller cities like Hayward step up at this historic moment to help curb the worst excesses of the military industrial complex, which is currently wreaking havoc on the Palestinian people.
“The vast majority of folks are against war, against militarism,” Castillo said, and know that it is important to recognize and point out when something is wrong, like the genocide of the Palestinian people. He added that the Palestinian struggle is interconnected with the struggle of other oppressed groups across the world, who are also on the receiving end of U.S. military aggression.
Israel has been getting $3.8 billion in military aid from the U.S. every year since 2016, for a promised 10-year period. During the past week, the GOP-led House of Representatives approved $14.3 billion in additional military aid to Israel on a party-line vote. While Democrats did not vote in favor of the aid package, few have heeded the U.S. public’s call to sign onto a ceasefire resolution.
Morrison said it was depressing to see how out of sync elected officials are with the American public, at least half of whom want a ceasefire and who need their tax dollars to go into their own communities instead of into destroying communities abroad.
“Look at downtown San Francisco,” Morrison said. “Look at Oakland. Why aren’t they putting money into the American people?”
Castillo also said he was disappointed to see the lack of support elected officials are showing for a ceasefire, instead calling for a humanitarian pause, the meaning of which is unclear. However, Castillo said the pressure to do the right thing is growing and news reports indicate that Democrats as high up as President Joe Biden, who has earned the moniker “Genocide Joe,” are feeling the pressure since their unconditional support for Israel could threaten their chances of reelection.
“I don’t think there’s a moral conscience that exists amongst them because they would have done the right thing sooner and we wouldn’t be having these debates around whether a Gazan life is worth as much as an Israeli life,” Castillo said. “But I think these actions are working and will continue to escalate and put more pressure on our elected representatives.”
Since the attack launched against Israel on Oct. 7, Israel has ramped up its ethnic cleansing campaign against the Palestinian people. Israel has deprived Gaza’s more than 2 million civilians, half of whom are children, of basic necessities like food, water and electricity, while bombing them indiscriminately, killing almost 10,000 since the start of the conflict and leaving many other missing or dead underneath the rubble of destroyed buildings. Israel has completely wiped out dozens of Palestinian families, leaving no surviving members, and targeted and killed journalists and their families at an alarming rate.
Actions in support of Palestine are ramping up in equal measure in the Bay Area. During the past week, protests have taken place at the University of California at Berkeley, the San Francisco General Hospital, and offices of federal elected officials. Protesters also attempted to block a military vessel believed to be headed for Israel from leaving the Port of Oakland and were set to protest a gala for the Israel Defense Forces in San Carlos on Sunday, Nov. 5.
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.
Photo caption: Thousands of people fill Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco in support of ending U.S. aid to Israel on Saturday, Nov. 4. (Sonia Waraich – East Bay Echo)