Hundreds of people participated in a pro-Palestinian rally and march Saturday in front of the Israeli Consulate in West Los Angeles, condemning Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Hamas' brutal attack last month on its neighbor.
Waving Palestinian flags and chanting "Cease-fire now!" the demonstrators rallied in front of the consulate on Wilshire Boulevard in Brentwood at about 1 p.m. They then began slowly marching east under the 405 Freeway and toward the Federal Building in Westwood.
Though orderly and peaceful, the marchers spread out over the street, leaving one lane open for cars to pass before eventually taking over the entire boulevard. Many motorists rolled down their windows, fists bumping, whistling, and even pulling out their own Palestinian flags in solidarity.
The protests come amid an escalating war between Israel and Hamas militants, who launched a surprise offensive from neighboring Gaza on southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Since then, more than 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, with Palestinian militants continuing to hold about 220 people hostage. More than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
Yessar Takruri, 32, one of the protesters in Los Angeles, said he was born here and raised in the West Bank. He blamed the U.S. for its political and financial support of Israel.
“I want the U.S. to pressure Israel to cease-fire," he said. "I don’t want my tax money and American people’s tax money funding military occupation. It should go to healthcare and programs in the U.S., not what is overseas. It’s unacceptable."
“I’m safe because I’m not in Gaza, but I don’t have a normal life because of the psychological damage on refugees and Palestinians all over the world," Takruri said. "How am I supposed to go to work and go about my life when my people are being massacred?”
Another protester, Wesam Eltohamy, 50, said that for the Israeli government to simply allow Palestinians to flee Gaza is not an acceptable solution.
“Give them their freedom in their land,” she said, as she waved a Palestinian flag. “It’s like saying, 'Leave your house and live in the backyard of your neighbors in a tent.'”
Eltohamy said she immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt 17 years ago and is in constant communication with her family in Egypt about the Israel-Hamas war. She said she is calling for a cease-fire and demands that the Biden administration stop supporting Israel.
“Just give people their freedom,” she said. “They’re not asking for much.”
Saturday's demonstration was held in solidarity with other large pro-Palestinian rallies and protests around the world Saturday, including Washington, D.C., where thousands gathered in Freedom Plaza, a block from the White House.
Also on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with frustrated Arab foreign ministers in the Middle East. They are calling for an immediate cease-fire, but Blinken said this would allow Hamas to regroup and encourage more attacks.
Instead, Blinken and the Biden administration are continuing to push for “humanitarian pauses” during ongoing talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said there would be no cease-fire until Hamas releases all the hostages.
On Saturday, two Israeli military strikes hit a school that was being used as a U.N. shelter, killing multiple civilians. Gaza’s health ministry said 15 people were killed and another 70 people injured.
The Israeli military said it would grant a three-hour window on Saturday for residents trapped by the fighting to flee to the southern part of Gaza.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.