Ceasefire Now: The Palestinian Fight for Freedom Amidst Genocide

A photo taken in Holmby Park at dusk. Many hands hold Palestinian flags and signs that read “Ceasefire Now,” “End All U.S. Aid to Israel,” and “Free Palestine.”

On the evening of December 8, Westwood’s Holmby Park witnessed an arguably dystopian, horrifyingly ironic scene. On one side, the echoing voices of hundreds of protesters chanted “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.” On the other, United States President Joe Biden attended his glitzy fundraiser, with a guest list composed of names like Steven Spielberg, Lenny Kravitz, and Gavin Newsom. These two distinct spheres were separated by a fence of metal and wire, which swayed back and forth like a body moments away from fainting.

On this winter evening, the estimated 240 police personnel from the Los Angeles Police Department only amplified this physical boundary between celebrity and civilian, murder and outrage. At the same time, protesters looping their hands through gaps in the unrelenting fence sent a clear message: as long as they could help it, Joe Biden would not escape the public consequences of the U.S.’ role in Israel’s Palestinian genocide.

On October 7, the Palestinian Sunni Islamist organization, Hamas, otherwise known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, killed an estimated 1,200 people in an attack on Israel. Hamas also kidnapped an estimated 240 people, holding them as hostages. 

Israel responded to the violence with a bombing offensive, which escalated to a ground war in the Gaza Strip. Between December 7 and 9, the days encapsulating when this protest at Holmby Park occurred, Israel had killed an estimated 17,700 and injured 48,700. It is approximated that 70% of those who lost their lives were women and children. In addition to this, over 85% of people in Gaza had been displaced as of December 13, with no running water and an extremely short food supply. 

Amidst these petrifying realities, the U.S. has remained in steadfast support of Israel since October 7. During the December 8 emergency meeting called by the U.N. Security Council, 153 member states voted in favor of a ceasefire, while twenty-three refrained from voting at all. The U.S. was one of only ten member states that pledged support for Israel, voting against a ceasefire. 

The protest in Holmby Park was largely publicized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, among other organizations. The Palestinian Youth Movement wrote on their public Instagram page, “Show Biden He Is Not Welcome In Los Angeles” and identified him as “Genocide Joe.” This movement, according to their website, is a “transnational, independent, grassroots movement of young Palestinians dedicated to the liberation of our homeland and people.” The Los Angeles Holmby Park rally is not the only protest they have publicized on their Instagram page, which currently amasses 517,000 followers. Prior to December 8, they posted details about pro-Palestinian protests in Virginia, Ohio, New York City, and other locations. 

The protest began around 3:30 pm, with people gathering at Holmby Park carrying posters, waving Palestinian flags, and donning keffiyehs – black and white garments rich with Palestinian history. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, various speakers took turns addressing the crowd. Some spoke about their beloved homeland, while other non-Palestinian speakers identified with the struggle in Palestine due to it mirroring their own culture’s experience. 

It is estimated that the gathering reached over 1,200 participants. Protestors held up signs reading “Stop Funding Genocide in Gaza,” “End All U.S. Aid To Israel,” “Ceasefire Now,” and “Generation After Generation Until Total Liberation,” referencing the Palestinian struggle to end Israeli occupation. Alternating with speakers, people led rally chants, using amplified microphones to reach the large crowd. These included phrases like, “Israel, Israel, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?” and “Biden, Biden, you’re a liar. We demand a ceasefire.” 

Ultimately, at 5:45 pm, the LAPD declared the protest an unlawful assembly due to protestors “throwing objects at officers and passing vehicles,” according to LAPD Chief Moore. Following a dispersal from the park, people moved further into Westwood, continuing the protest onto Comstock Avenue. 

At the private residence where his fundraiser was held, Biden’s eleven-minute speech failed to once mention Gaza or the protestors rattling the fence just streets away. Instead, he focused on the danger that former president Donald Trump poses to United States democracy. Addressing his donors, he expressed in an impressively detached statement: “‘Folks, at our best, we’re a nation that cares. We care about each other; we care about the nation…There is nothing beyond our capacity, nothing when we act together — literally nothing.’” It is hard to ignore the bitter irony inherently embedded in his words. 

These are the words he utters as people march together in the streets, undeterred by the LAPD’s presence. As so many Palestinian Americans grieve their homeland, their loved ones, and this destruction of their culture. As we, members of this “nation that cares,” watch a genocide unfold before our very eyes.

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