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Protesters Blocked Traffic Outside White House Before Biden’s State of the Union

"We’re horrified at our morally bankrupt President," said one activist who was part of the blockade.

Demonstrators with Jewish Voice for Peace attempt to block President Joe Biden's motorcade route during a Pro-Palestinian protest near the U.S. Capitol on March 7, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

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Hundreds of protesters blocked traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue outside of the White House in Washington D.C. on Thursday evening to demonstrate against the Biden administration’s refusal to demand a permanent Israeli ceasefire in Gaza.

The protesters, numbering around 500 in total, rallied prior to President Joe Biden’s departure for the U.S. Capitol, where he was set to deliver the State of the Union Address that night. Reading their own “People’s State of the Union,” organizers decried the administration for its participation in Israel’s genocidal attacks against Palestinians in Gaza, which have killed more than 31,000 people since October 7.

Protesters held banners and wore shirts that read “Biden’s Legacy = Genocide.”

“We’re horrified at our morally bankrupt President. Israel is carrying out a cruel and protracted genocide, slaughtering parents desperately trying to find food for their starving children,” said Saqib Bhatti, Co-Executive Director of the Action Center on Race and the Economy, one of the groups that helped plan the protest action. “They are doing that with our money and with weapons from our country. Biden refuses to stop the genocide in Gaza so it’s clear he wants this to happen. We’re here to say, ‘No more!’”

Members of the Biden administration have repeatedly refused to call for a permanent ceasefire, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who recently called for a short-term “pause” to allow for humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians in Gaza — a move that was condemned by those protesting outside the White House on Thursday night.

“A ‘temporary ceasefire’ is nothing, when over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel and children are starving to death,” Sumaya Awad, Director of Strategy and Communications at Adalah Justice Project and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, said of the idea. “Crumbs of humanitarian aid are shameful when the U.S. continues to fund bombs that rain down on Palestinians who are waiting for that same aid. We are here to unequivocally call for a permanent ceasefire and an end to US military funding to Israel.”

The crowd eventually blocked traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue, with dozens of protesters locking arms and forming a human chain on the main street outside of the White House. A second group, yards away from the former, sat down on the street to block traffic. Protesters aimed to disrupt the transport of the president to the Capitol for long enough to make their voices heard.

At least one motorist was enraged at their actions, revving his engine and appearing to head toward a section of protesters before he was stopped by police.

It’s unclear whether Biden’s motorcade was blocked by the protesters or not. Biden was indeed late for the State of the Union address; although he was scheduled to speak at around 9 p.m. Eastern Time, he didn’t reach the podium inside the House chamber until nearly a half hour later.

During his speech, Biden reiterated his support for Israel while calling on the country’s leaders to take steps to protect civilian lives in Gaza — a call that rings hollow given recent revelations that his administration has secretly sent Israel over 100 shipments of weapons since October 7. At least one former Biden official has said that these U.S. arm sales have almost single handedly made the genocide possible.

Notably, Biden’s speech also stopped short of calling for a ceasefire.

“[Biden] has ignored the demands of the countless Americans who have filled the streets every day for five months demanding that he call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza,” said Beth Miller, Political Director at Jewish Voice for Peace Action. “Instead, he has continued to support Israel’s genocide, sending the bombs that are massacring Palestinians each day.”

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