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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

300 arrested as Jewish protesters in D.C. demand Israel-Gaza cease-fire

By Justin Wm. Moyer and Ellie Silverman Washington Post

U.S. Capitol Police arrested about 300 people who were protesting inside the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building to demand that Congress pass a cease-fire resolution in the Israel-Gaza war amid an intensifying humanitarian crisis.

The arrests occurred after demonstrators, including American Jews and allies worried about Palestinians in Gaza, rallied on the National Mall. Protesters held a banner with red writing that said, “Our blood is the same color,” waved Palestinian flags, and raised posters that read, “My grief is not your weapon,” “Never again for anyone” and “Zionism is racism.” There were Jewish people wearing prayer shawls and kippot, young activists sporting tattoos and nose rings, and people in headscarves and Palestinian checkered black-and-whitescarves.

“We are here to say, ‘Not in our name,’” Jay Saper said. “We are here as Jews – many descendants of survivors of genocide – to stop a genocide from unfolding in real time.”

Inside the House building, the protesters wore black shirts that said, “Not in our name” on the front and “Jews say cease fire now” on the back, as they sang and cheered over police warnings to disperse. The crowd inside Cannonincluded 400 American Jews and 25 rabbis against Israeli occupation and are demanding Congress pass a cease-fire resolution, said Sonya Meyerson-Knox, a spokeswoman for Jewish Voice for Peace, a national Jewish anti-Zionist organization.

“We warned the protestors to stop demonstrating and when they did not comply we began arresting them,” Capitol Police said in a statement.

In an update Thursday, Capitol Police said 308 people were arrested in the Cannon rotunda for crowding, obstructing or incommoding – a code often cited when arresting protesters during acts of civil disobedience. Of those detained, 305 were ticketed and released, and three others were held overnight on the additional charge of assault on a police officer and are expected to be seen in court Thursday, police said.

This demonstration comes amid protests across the Middle East following a strike on a hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday that killed hundreds of people. Palestinian and Israeli officials have traded blame for the blast at al-Ahli Hospital, which appeared to be the deadliest single strike on civilians in the Gaza Strip since the conflict began.

President Biden has expressed his support for Israel since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, when gunmen from the militant group that controls Gaza broke through Israel’s border, killing more than 1,400 people and taking others into Gaza as hostages, including some American citizens. Hamas is holding about 200 to 250 hostages, a spokesman for Hamas’s military wing estimated.

Since then, Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip have killed more than 3,700 people and wounded more than 12,400 people, Palestinian officials said.

In the 10 days following Hamas’s attack, the Crowd Counting Consortium, an academic project tracking and sharing data on protests across the United States, tracked more than 400 U.S. vigils, rallies and protests in response to the war. Roughly 270 of those events were focused on backing Israel, while nearly 200 were in support of Palestinians.

This is the second time this week that Jewish protesters have been arrested while demanding a cease-fire. On Monday, more than 30 people were arrested during a protest that included blocking entrances to the White House.

The protesters on Wednesday pointed to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where more than 2 million people live, about half of whom are children. Israel has cut off access to food, water, electricity and fuel, and as many as 1 million people were ordered to flee south as Israeli forces focus airstrikes on northern Gaza. The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said Saturday that, without critical resources, people have been forced to use “dirty water from wells, increasing risks of waterborne diseases.”

The speakers at the rally on the west side of the Capitol called for a cease-fire as cars honked in support and the crowd chanted, “Let Gaza live!” From the stage, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said that she and colleagues were called “disgraceful” for introducing a cease-fire resolution.

“There is nothing repugnant or disgraceful about saving lives,” Bush said. “Our push for peace is working.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), one of the House Democrats who also introduced the resolution and a speaker at Wednesday’s rally, took aim at Biden, who recently pledged during a meeting in Israel with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States “will continue to have Israel’s back as you work to defend your people.”

“Not all Americans are with you on this one,” Tlaib said of Biden, adding, “Americans want a cease-fire. They want it to stop.”