“Allahu Akbar” chanted the army-sized crowd at the White House on Saturday afternoon, who cursed the U.S. president, waved the flag of a foreign adversary, and endeavored to breach the White House compound. Despite ubiquitous defacement of public property, attempted intrusions onto White House Grounds, and calls for genocide, law enforcement made only one arrest.
Tens of thousands — some unofficial reports estimate 100,000 — pro-Hamas demonstrators from all over the U.S. gathered near the White House on Saturday, denouncing President Biden’s show of support for Israel and demanding that he cut their army off at the ankles as they prepare to root Hamas militants out of northern Gaza. Some demonstrators carried signs implying they worked for Congress or the Biden administration.
The Palestinian national anthem blared at a massive rally in Freedom Plaza, southeast of the White House, site of the national World War I memorial.
“It is right to rebel! Israel can go to hell!” said one speaker, Marte White with Community Movement Builders, who insisted that Palestinians have a right to fight “by any means necessary … and I do mean any means necessary!” Another speaker, representing the U.S. Palestine Community Network’s Chicago Chapter, claimed, “Israel does not have the right to exist as a racist state.”
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Muslim Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), threatened that Muslim Democrats will refuse to vote for Biden in 2024 if he fails to obtain a ceasefire. “No cease-fire, no votes!” chanted the crowd. “In November, we remember!”
“I’ve heard a lot of people in the states criticizing the way that Israel is going about this, but I haven’t heard those same people give any actual suggestions of what Israel should do,” war correspondent Chuck Holton, who is on the ground in the Middle East, said on “Washington Watch.” “And it makes one think that they just believe Israel ought to just lay down and die.”
“Israel is not disposed to do that in any way, shape or form,” Holton added. “The soldiers who are going to go do the fighting … keep saying, ‘Ceasefire? We haven’t even started fighting yet.’”
Although the protest was nominally anti-Israel, many of its attendees manifested a hatred toward Jews in general. As The Washington Post interviewed one anti-Israel Jewish New Yorker at the rally, they recorded, “a protester walked by and told him, ‘See you in hell.’”
After the rally, a large crowd moved to Lafayette Park, north of the White House, which was the site of nightly stand-offs between Black Lives Matter rioters and Secret Service police in the summer of 2020.
A demonstrator wearing a keffiyeh scarf climbed partway up the White House fence and waved a Palestinian flag above it. Other demonstrators, similarly garbed, stuck Palestinian flags through the fence and waved them from side to side.
The demonstrators demanded that President Biden force Israel to accept an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. However, their chants struck a most hostile and militant tone. They chanted, “Allahu akbar,” “F*** Joe Biden,” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and “Long live the Intifada.”
Demonstrators plastered the fence with posters depicting Gazan civilians who have died in the aftermath of Hamas’s October 7 terror attack on Israeli civilians. The posters provocatively described the victims as “Murdered by Israel,” despite evidence that Israel goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, while Hamas actively places civilians in harm’s way. Some protestors taped a giant banner up to the White House fence, blocking the view of Secret Service officers on the north lawn, prompting them to momentarily step forward and tear the banner down while protestors shouted “shame” and cursed the officers.
The protestors smeared red paint on the White House fence and pushed on the gates. One reporter on the scene said, of all the protests he has observed, “this one was distinguished by the defacing of the gate and pushing on it. … When gates were swaying tonight, one protester said to me, ‘It’s going to be all over’ if they were to open. In the moment, it wasn’t hard to imagine hundreds going through the gate.”
Demonstrators mocked or defaced at least seven statues of influential figures in American history. To cheers and applause, one protestor, wearing either a grotesque mask or bizarre face paint, climbed onto a statue of Benjamin Franklin and draped it in a keffiyeh scarf. General John Pershing’s statue was accessorized with a keffiyeh armband, while youths hanging from his side posed with a Palestinian flag.
In Lafayette Park, protestors placed Palestinian flags on statues of Andrew Jackson, Count Rochambeau, and the Marquis de Lafayette, whom they also covered with posters. Protestors graffitied at least four statues in Lafayette Park — General von Steuben, General Kosciuszko, Rochambeau, and Lafayette — with the message “Free Palestine,” which remained on the statues as of Monday afternoon.
Rochambeau’s statue, in the southwest corner of the park, was also graffitied with messages such as, “Stop genocide in Gaza, free Gaza, Palestine will be free, and F*** Joe Biden.”
Graffiti messages on other structures in Lafayette Park which remained until Monday included “Death to USA,” “Amerikkka = pigs,” “Destroy empires,” “Kos om Israel” [according to Google translate, Arabic for, “who is Israel?”], “Israel is a b****,” “T***** f*** [crude ways to describe people who identify as LGBT] 4 Palestine,” anarchist symbols, and, “Free Ireland.” Protestors also affixed stickers with messages including, “Community watch area, police not welcome” and “Every time media lies a neighborhood in Gaza dies.” Some of the messages were written in red paint, smeared to resemble blood.
Over an information board describing the history of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the word “Gaza” was sprayed in large, red letters.
The U.S. Secret Service and other law enforcement maintained a heavy presence near Lafayette Park on Monday, with an extra 40 police vans and SUVs parked in an area of Pennsylvania Avenue often open to pedestrian traffic. Police had completely blocked off the avenue in front of the White House, the apex of the protest, while crews with pressure washers were still employed cleaning off the White House fence.
The pro-Hamas protestors did not confine their destructive actions to the White House complex. Across 17th Street from the White House, demonstrators spray-painted “Gaza” on the windows and broke one. Despite the damage, the McDonalds was open for business on Monday.
Blocks away from the White House, protestors vandalized a bus stop with the messages, “Kill the empire” and “Free Palestine,” as well as stickers demanding, “Resist colonial power by any means necessary.”
The message echoes the words of senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad who argued last month, “We are the victims of the occupation. Period. Therefore, nobody should blame us for the things we do. On October 7, October 10, October 1,000,000 — everything we do is justified.”
“For generations on our elite college campuses … we’ve been teaching young people to look at the world through the worldview of critical theory … that fundamentally sees the world through the lens of ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed,’ said David Closson, director of Family Research Council’s Center for Biblical Worldview, on “Washington Watch.” “Part of that also is this ideology of settler colonialism … this idea that the Jews, the Israelis, somehow don’t actually have a moral claim to their land, and because of that their enemies … can use any means whatsoever to evict them from the land.”
“We have now turned a corner into a place where we are kind of excusing, justifying, trying to understand mass rape, mass murder, putting babies in ovens, because the people who are doing it have been identified as the oppressed,” lamented Joseph Backholm, senior fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council and guest host of “Washington Watch.”
“We saw this in the U.S. in the ‘Summer of Love’ of 2020, where we saw people rioting and looting and destroying their neighbors’ businesses,” Backholm continued. He referenced the infamous headline, “mostly peaceful protests,” which a mainstream media outlet ran in front of a burning building. When “we defined people and categorized them based on their skin color,” he said, a subtle effect was “changing the moral framework that we use to determine what is right and wrong.”
Protestors also tore down posters of the Israeli victims kidnapped by Hamas and replaced them with more “Murdered by Israel” posters. They placed posters and stickers on parking meters and utility boxes with messages such as, “Zionism is terrorism” and “There is only one solution: Intifada! Revolution!”
Protestors placed flyers on car windshields falsely claiming, “Palestinians in Gaza are facing genocide at the hands of the Israeli government, and the United States is funding it.” The flyer included a QR code and web address for New York City Democratic Socialists.
Despite the destructive actions of protestors, the response by law enforcement was extremely limited. D.C. Police said in a press release that only one person was arrested for Destruction of Property in the 700 block of 17th Street NW — this is the location of the vandalized McDonald’s. They were also “investigating acts of vandalism” to a metro station near the White House and “several police vehicles.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Secret Service officers made no arrests. “As of now, no arrests have been made by Secret Service personnel,” confirmed Secret Service communications chief Anthony Guglielmi. “The attempted gate trespass from earlier was handled without incident.” According to this statement, an “attempted gate trespass” is not an incident.
Under D.C. Code, it is unlawful “to write, mark, draw, or paint” without the owner’s consent on any public or private property, including statues, monuments, and fencing. The penalty for doing so is a fine up to $1,000 and “not less than $250,” as well as jail time up to 180 days. The penalty for breaking or destroying private property exceeding $1,000 is a fine up to $25,000 and imprisonment up to 10 years.
“I never envisioned we would see mobs at the gate of the White House chanting, ‘Allahu Akbar,’” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. U.S. officials have warned of a heightened risk of radical Islamist terror attacks inside the United States, due to the porous nature of the southern border. U.S. Border Patrol recently discovered an improvised explosive device (IED) at the southern border, and they have encountered 736 people on the U.S. terror watchlist this year.
Perkins warned that these left-wing protests are increasingly connected, hearkening back to the nightly BLM riots at the White House in the summer of 2020. Many of the pro-Palestinian protestors have been funded by left-wing not-for-profits that command millions of dollars. “We always treat these as a one-off. This is a march,” he said. After the summer of 2020, which led to repeated injuries of Secret Service officers, the White House installed an enormous iron fence around the compound, in evident anticipation of repeat occurrences.
But another feature struck Perkins as even more concerning. “The first thing that jumped out at me: no arrests. That’s amazing, when there were people who didn’t even step foot in the Capitol, who were arrested for conspiracy on January 6,” he pointed out. “I guarantee, if that were Moms for Liberty, they would have sent paddy wagon after paddy wagon.”
Days earlier, a White House spokesperson called anti-Semitic protests at college campuses “the definition of unacceptable.” When a much larger protest of the same type took place at the White House, law enforcement took minimal action to enforce infractions of either federal law or D.C. code.
Perkins warned that anti-Semitism is an early warning sign of religious persecution in general. “If we step aside, all hell will be unleashed on orthodox, biblical faith,” he warned.
However, Closson insisted that Christianity provides the only effective antidote to the moral relativism of critical theory. “It doesn’t matter your skin color. It doesn’t matter who you’re married to. [It] doesn’t matter — all these superficial categories. What matters is, there are things that are right, and there are things that are wrong,” he said. “And so, a return to understanding objective truth, objective morality — which again is a byproduct of a Christian worldview — that’s something we need to hold on to. That’s something the church needs to insist on.”
Christianity teaches that “even when you are legitimately a victim, you cannot do whatever you want,” Backholm agreed. “We must bless those who curse us, pray for those who spitefully use us. And of course, a big reason for that is the fact that Jesus was the greatest victim of all, yet still laid down his life for us.”
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.
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