(AFP) – Jan 10, 2009
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Several thousand protesters descended on the White House Saturday in support of Palestinians in war-ravaged Gaza, as other protests took place across Canada and in the Mexican capital.
As many as 10,000 people, according to organizers, gathered from about 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) in Washington's Lafayette Park, across from the White House, chanting "free Palestine" as protest leaders and activists spoke from a podium.
The protests came as Israel vowed to escalate its war in Gaza that has left at least 825 Palestinians dead as troops battled fighters from the Islamist movement Hamas into a third week, in defiance of a United Nations truce call.
"There are many young people. We feel it's one of the most important demonstrations for Palestine ever in the US," said Eugene Puryear, a coordinator of the Washington protest, which was organized by the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) coalition.
Protesters waived Palestinian flags, wore keffiyeh -- a traditional Palestinian headdress -- and waived signs, some of which read "Stop the Gaza holocaust" and "Free Palestine, let Gaza live."
They then led a march passing in front of the headquarters of The Washington Post newspaper to protest "its hard pro-Israeli line," Puryear said, before heading to the offices of construction equipment giant Caterpillar and military contractor Lockheed Martin.
"I came because there are innocent children dying daily in Palestine. The American people need to know the truth," said 13-year-old Razan Ali, a Palestinian-American who bused in from New York.
A dozen buses filled with protesters came from New Jersey and another seven buses drove in from New York.
Yasmina Farej, a 54-year-old who came from Brooklyn dressed in conservative Muslim garb, said she was motivated to join the protest because of "the war in Gaza; they bomb the innocent children."
Thousands more protested across several Canadian cities, calling for an "immediate ceasefire" and especially targeting conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his support of Israel.
In Montreal, some 2,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanted "Israel the assassin" and called for a ceasefire in the impoverished Gaza Strip. Some brandished dolls spattered with red paint that they said represented children killed by the Israeli army.
Several hundred protesters also gathered in front of the US embassy in Mexico City in opposition to what they called the "criminal aggression" in Gaza. Some protesters set shoes ablaze and hurled them against the embassy gates.
Demonstrators against the Israeli offensive also rallied in major cities across Europe, with the largest protests in Paris and London, where largely peaceful demonstrations turned violent as the day wore on.
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