We Blocked Biden’s Motorcade to Say: No More Support for Genocide - Action Center on Race and the Economy

We can’t abide our government abetting the mass slaughter of children in Gaza.

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As President Joe Biden made his way from the White House to the Capitol for his State of the Union address earlier this month, he was faced with the consequences of his unflinching support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza. I, along with nearly 200 other activists and organizers from around the country, blocked Pennsylvania Avenue to let Biden and Congress know that there will be no business as usual while Palestinians are being killed and starved with the full backing of the United States government. 

I helped hold a 70-foot-long banner that had the names and ages of the first 2,000 children killed by Israel during the genocide. The total number of Palestinian children that the Israeli military has slaughtered since October is now well over 10,000, and that does not include the children being killed as a result of deliberate starvation and dehydration. In fact, more children were killed in Gaza during the first four months of the genocide than were killed in all armed conflicts in the world from 2019 through 2022. 

When we unfurled the banner for the first time, my eyes were immediately drawn to the long list of names with the number ​“1” next to them — the same age as my son. He is just starting to ask for — no, demand — what he wants and who he wants, both with his limited words and his feet. 

When I returned home to Chicago the next day, he pointed me to his room. He went to grab a book from his bookshelf and somehow got his legs stuck under the crib. He cried out for my help, panicked. I thought of the number 1 on the banner, of all the kids who had died under the rubble because there was no one there to get them unstuck, their panicked cries unanswered. When later that same day my son got his fingers caught in a drawer, he turned bright red, cried at the top of his lungs, and demanded that I pick him up. I hugged him and thought of that number 1, of all the kids who are seriously injured and crying out in pain with no one to comfort them as they take their last breaths. That number 1 haunts me, as it should all of us.

In a sense, our action in Washington D.C. succeeded. Instead of taking the traditional route down Pennsylvania Avenue, President Biden was forced to take a circuitous route to the Capitol and his speech was delayed by half an hour. We also know that all marches, vigils, ceasefire resolutions, sit-ins, blockades, and birddogging from pro-Palestinian organizers over the past five months, culminating in the unprecedented success of the uncommitted movement at the ballot box, have ramped up the pressure and forced wholly insufficient but noticeable shifts in the public posture of both Biden and the Democratic Party more broadly.

But in a larger sense, we have all failed. Over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 70,000 injured in Gaza since Israel began its assault. Residents of Gaza are facing an extreme lack of food, water and fuel, and over 80% of the population has been displaced. This manufactured humanitarian disaster has been aided and abetted by the Biden administration, which has circumvented Congress to send weapons to Israel to carry out its attacks on Gaza with clear genocidal intent, is actively trying to push $14 billion in military funding to Israel, and has vetoed United Nations ceasefire resolutions on three separate occasions.

The genocide being carried out on Gazans is amoral enough that it should be resisted by all people of consience, but the fact that it is being funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars makes us personally responsible for the horrors we are witnessing. When my wife and I recently sat down to do our taxes, we plugged our financial information into the calculation tool at Off​set4Gaza​.com and we were forced to reckon with the fact that about $150 of our tax dollars would be going towards killing Palestinians, including young children like ours. The Biden administration has made us all complicit in genocide. That is the true state of our union.

During our action in D.C., we sat in the street wearing shirts that said, ​“Biden’s Legacy = Genocide,” face-to-face with a line of cops on bikes and a deluge of police cars with red and blue sirens flashing across our faces as we chanted, ​“Stop the bombs and the killing, fight like hell for the living!”

We heard from Palestinians who have lost family in the genocide. Sharif Zakout from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center in the Bay Area, said, ​“I have family in the Gaza Strip, and for the last five months, everyday our lives are filled with death, uncertainty, hopelessness. But the solidarity that we’ve seen nationally, the courage we’re seeing from the people behind me, that is what inspires hope. That is what inspires hope for our families, for our movements, for our communities. Not just for Palestine, but for everybody.”

“We know what our state of the union is. The state of the union is genocide.”

Palestinian-American leader Huwaida Arraf, who is a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and the former chair of the Free Gaza Movement, summed up our demands when she got on the megaphone and said, ​“We are the people, all different ethnicities, from different states, different religions, coming together to call for justice, to call for equality, to call for an end to the killing, to call for an end to militarism.” Arraf added, ​“We have the power because we know that while Joe Biden will stand in front of millions of people and gaslight the American people, talking about the state of the union being prosperous and being well, we know what our state of the union is. The state of the union is genocide.”

After we learned that we had forced Biden’s motorcade to take a detour to avoid us, an organizer got up and said, ​“Joe Biden had to take a different route. He can hide in his motorcade, he can hide in the Capitol, he can’t hide from his legacy.” Biden has apparently decided that Israel’s genocide is his hill to die on. We refuse to let that be our legacy. 

“Each child of Gaza is one of our own.” Those were the words written across the center of the banner I held while we blocked Biden’s route. We cannot sit idly by knowing that we bore witness to the mass slaughter of children from the safety of our homes, had it live streamed to the devices in our pockets, and collectively shrugged.

Like millions around the world, we have been in the streets every day fighting for an end to the genocide in Gaza. Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, we want the killing to stop. While our elected leaders are bent on war, the people demand the lasting peace that children all over the world deserve.