Graffiti reading “Victory to the Taliban,” “Victory to Hamas” and the word “Jihad” written inside a rocket appeared overnight on sidewalks outside the downtown Washington, D.C. convention center where President Barack Obama spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Sunday.
A trail of graffiti down 7th Street between K and N Streets included the image of a rocket flying through the air with the word “Qassam.” Named after a militant 20th-century Syrian preacher, a Qassam is a rocket preferred by the military arm of Hamas to hit Israeli targets.
Other graffiti said “Victory to Hezballah” and “Victory to Iran,” along with the word “AIPAC” crossed out. Some of the pictures showed rockets striking the word AIPAC.
Some of the roughly 200 protesters who gathered at the convention center to decry the pro-Israel AIPAC gathering condemned the graffiti. Several of the protesters were self-described members of the group Occupy AIPAC.
“I have no idea what this is. I saw these last night. I can assure you none of the people here at Occupy share this sentiment,” said protester Alli McCracken.
“If anything, this is just someone doing this to make us look bad. Last night, we were walking here and we were like, ‘This is crazy, they’re framing us!’ Everyone here is pro-peace, not pro-terrorist groups.”
Palestinian protesters also denied that the graffiti represent their views and hinted at a conspiracy.
“Oh no. We won’t say anything related to that,” said Palestinian protester Rajai Dias. “That’s not something that anyone in our organization wants to do. That wasn’t any supporters from here.”
Dias noted that none of the messages were written in Arabic.
“Clearly, if it was from them, they don’t know Arabic. Hamas and Palestinians don’t even bomb Israel. They lie so much,” Dias said, pointing at the convention center where AIPAC was scheduled to be held.
“[They say] thousands of homemade rockets are flying into Israel. It’s from their government trying to make their citizens scared so they can justify their occupation and the apartheid wall,” Dias continued.
“There’s a fringe group of people in this country and around the world who believe that … Hezbollah using rocket attacks on Israeli civilians is a good thing,” said Daniel Riley, who identified himself as a Muslim protesting with Occupy D.C.
“I, for one, don’t agree with that. I don’t think it helps bring about peace in the Middle East, especially between Israelis and Palestinians. I understand the desperation that leads people to believe that launching rockets off is a good idea, but I don’t think it really solves anything.”
AIPAC attendees walking a gauntlet through protesters and police declined to comment on the graffiti, but one man in a yarmulke and prayer shawl shrugged his shoulders and waved his hands as if to say, “What can you do?”
AIPAC’s press officer did not immediately reply to requests for comments.
Security was tight around the convention center at 10 a.m. as the crowd of protesters grew larger and police prepared for Obama’s arrival.
But despite the apparent disapproval of many protesters and a significant police presence, the graffiti writer appeared to continue working unabated. At 10:30 a.m., there were fresh messages of “Victory to Hamas” and “Victory to the Taliban” on the corner of N and 7th Streets, which had been clear just an hour earlier.