Advocates calling for a ceasefire in Gaza were often interrupted by their own tears as they gathered outside the White House and read the names of Palestinians killed in the war.
According to international media reports, several speakers, including Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and actors Cynthia Nixon and Denee Benton, took turns reading from a long list of names on Wednesday evening. But they barely got through a fraction of the more than 15,000 Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks.
Activists warned that the list of the dead would only grow if the current truce is allowed to expire and a permanent ceasefire is not secured.
The vigil – attended by Tlaib and other progressive Congress members – was organised by activists, state lawmakers and artists, who are hunger striking in Washington, DC, in support of a ceasefire in Gaza.
Tlaib and her colleagues gathered to show support for the hunger strikers and warned that the war in Gaza must end, stressing that a temporary pause in fighting was not sufficient.
“How many more lives will be enough? How many more children need to be killed? How many more families have to be traumatised and torn apart? There is nothing humanitarian, my friends, about giving innocent civilians a few days of rest before they are bombed again,” Tlaib said.
She called on President Joe Biden to listen to people calling for a ceasefire, which is backed by most Americans and an overwhelming majority of Democrats, according to public opinion polls.
Tlaib, who is the only Palestinian American member of Congress, hit out at the White House for calling lawmakers who demanded a ceasefire early in the war “repugnant”.
“The bombing of innocent civilians and children is repugnant and disgraceful. The refusal to support a ceasefire and an end to violence and the killing is repugnant and disgraceful. Our president calling on Congress to fund more bombs that are being dropped on innocent civilians is repugnant and disgraceful,” Tlaib said.
Tlaib underscored that leading human rights groups and Pope Francis have called for a ceasefire, stressing that the demand is not controversial.
Congresswoman Cori Bush, who introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives last month demanding a ceasefire, echoed Tlaib’s remarks, highlighting that the campaign to demand a ceasefire is making progress.
“Our movement is working. They feel our energy in the White House. They hear our demands. They see us marching in the streets. They are watching the polls,” Bush said.
The congresswoman noted that when she first introduced a resolution on October 16, the measure had just 13 cosponsors. Now more than 40 lawmakers in the House and the Senate have called for a ceasefire in Gaza.
“It’s clear that our constituents and people all around the world want a ceasefire,” Bush said.
Biden sparked speculations on Tuesday with a social media post that could be interpreted as a call for Israel to wind down the war, suggesting that the violence would only boost support for Hamas.
“Hamas unleashed a terrorist attack because they fear nothing more than Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace,” Biden wrote.
“To continue down the path of terror, violence, killing, and war is to give Hamas what they seek.”
But White House national security spokesperson John Kirby was quick to reemphasise US support for Israel’s war effort later that day, suggesting that the country has a “responsibility” to eliminate Hamas.