Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Thousands of protesters from across the country attended a pro-Israel demonstration Tuesday on the National Mall in Washington, amid the tightest of security, to condemn anti-Semitism and demand the release of hostages being held since last month's Hamas attack on Israel.
The demonstration, billed as "Americans March for Israel, March to Free Hostages, March Against Anti-Semitism," got underway at 1 p.m. EST. The large crowd, carrying signs of support, heard speeches and musical performances from a stage adorned with the flags of Israel and the United States.
Among the speakers was Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who spoke remotely from Jerusalem and urged unity "to march for the babies, the boys and girls, women and men viciously held hostage by Hamas; to march for the right of every Jew to live proudly and safely in America, in Israel and all around the world."
מזמין אתכם לצפות בדברים שאמרתי הערב בשידור חי בפני משתתפי עצרת התמיכה בישראל, שהתקיימה בוושינגטון
--- I invite you to watch my special address, broadcast live to the participants #MarchForIsrael in Washington D.C. pic.twitter.com/oef3IabifS— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) November 14, 2023
Other speakers included relatives of the hostages being held by Hamas, as well as politicians including House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
"Today, we stood together at the March for Israel on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to say 'America stands for the people of Israel,'" Schumer wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Today, we stood together at the #MarchForIsrael on the National Mall in Washington, DC to say:
Tuesday's march prompted a "Level 1" security event, which is the highest level possible, from the Department of Homeland Security. The National Guard assisted local police with explosive detection, venue screening and shutting down streets around the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol.
"There has never been a First Amendment event in D.C., that has been designated as a ... Level 1 event," Donell Harvin, a former D.C., chief of homeland security and intelligence, told CNN. "Those designations are reserved for high-profile events such as the Super Bowl and World Series."
According to U.S. Capitol Police, there were no counterdemonstrations or threats as of Tuesday afternoon.
"On Oct. 7, merciless Hamas terrorists launched the deadliest attack on Israel in its 75-year history, brutally murdering the most Jewish people in a single day since the Holocaust," said Eric Fingerhut, president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federations of North America, which helped organize Tuesday's "March for Israel."
"Israel must eliminate the terrorist threat on its border and restore safety and security to its people," Fingerhut added.
In last month's attack, Hamas -- which is based in Gaza -- killed 1,200 Israelis and took about 240 people hostage. Israel has since launched an air and ground offensive in Gaza, killing more than 11,000 people.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN that Israel is "doing everything we can around the clock" to free the hostages.
Tuesday's demonstration in Washington follows other marches around the world to protest anti-Semitism. On Sunday, more than 100,000 people marched through the streets of Paris following a surge of prejudice in France during Israel's war with Hamas.
While there were no threats before Tuesday's event in Washington, Metropolitan and Capitol Police worked together to ensure a safe event as officers planned for possible counter demonstrations.
"MPD has asked for mutual assistance and support from the National Guard. The National Guard will be supporting some traffic safety points," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday.
MPD is "working closely with our local, state and federal partners to ensure safety and security surrounding First Amendment activities planned for Tuesday," said Paris Lewbel, a representative of the Metropolitan Police Department.
William McFarland, the House sergeant at arms, wrote in a memo to Congress that access to the Capitol Square would be restricted Tuesday, adding that the House had arranged bipartisan member transportation to and from the demonstration on a "first-come, first-served basis."