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Thousands in San Francisco march to demand end of attacks on Gaza

Thousands march in San Francisco demanding a Gaza ceasefire
Thousands march in San Francisco demanding a Gaza ceasefire 03:25

SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been four weeks since a brutal, coordinated attack by Hamas touched off an Israeli counterstrike offensive in the Gaza Strip and demonstrations against Israel have grown worldwide.  The question now is, will that have an impact on U.S. lawmakers and United States policy?

Saturday's pro-Palestinian rally in front of S.F. City Hall drew tens of thousands of people. 

Many, like Sand and John Symes of Marin County, have no stake in the land dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. But tragic images on the evening news are something they said they cannot ignore.

"I think it's convincing people to come out of their homes and come on the street like we have, for sure," Sand Symes said. "I don't think people are listening right now. There's so much anger, there's so much resentment, there's so much history in this place, that it feels like we keep missing the point. We keep missing sitting down and really listening to each other."

"I can feel the momentum of it and that's why we had to get out today," John Symes said. "My son's in Trafalgar Square right now or he was earlier today. Same deal. People who just feel the injustice of the world."

Sgt. Kathryn Winters, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Police Department, said in an e-mail, "The crowd may have been as large as 15-18k, not an official estimate."

"This is a historic moment: millions are pouring out across the world to demand an end to Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people," said Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center in San Francisco, in a statement. "From the Bay Area to Washington, D.C., we are demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and an immediate end to US aid to Israel."

"We're taking to the streets! We're making our voices be heard because we're not going to be complicit in a massacre!" one protester yelled.

Organizers of the San Francisco rally say similar demonstrations were planned to take place Saturday in more than 100 cities around the world. One activist named Noor said people who never would have been involved in such a matter are now being influenced through the power of social media.

"Before, it was a lot harder for people to just take out their phones and see what Israel is doing on the ground," she said. "But now, it's like you have videos, you have photos, showing what's happening. It's hard for people to deny it when they see right in front of their face."

Protest organizers said more than 9,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by the Israeli military in the last three weeks, including at least 4,000 children.

Will it ultimately have any impact on America's support of Israel in the conflict? UC Berkeley political science professor and Israel Studies chair Ron Hassner expressed doubt.

"The American government has made its stance very clear. You have seen the incredible bipartisan vote earlier in the week, in which 98 percent of the House of Representatives backed a very strong anti-Hamas, pro-Israel statement. The American public, I think, responds viscerally to images of Palestinian fatalities and there have been high rates of Palestinian fatalities, many killed by Hamas, many killed by Israel," Prof. Hassner said.

The government also supported the Vietnam War until televised images convinced the public of its futility, turning the tide against the war. These days, communication is much faster so Americans are faced on a daily basis with the reality of what Israel's war on terrorism actually looks like.

Back at the rally, Sand Symes said she hoped public opinion can have some influence on the conflict.

"I've got to believe that it can," she said. "Otherwise I'm left with a hopelessness. I've got to keep hope. It's a way to keep hope alive."

It's difficult enough keeping people alive. Saving hope may be even harder.

Bay City News contributed to this report

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