California Assembly Shut Down Over Protest Calling for Israeli Ceasefire in Israel

On the day California lawmakers returned to Sacramento for the new year, hundreds of protesters gathered at the state Capitol on Wednesday and closed out the Assembly with calls for Israel to stop its war against Hamas.

Lawmakers walked out of the Assembly chamber as at least 250 protesters chanted, “Cease fire now.” Filling the Capitol rotunda, protesters unfurled a banner reading “No to US funding for Israel’s genocide in Palestine” and made paper flowers representing more than 22,000 Palestinians killed in the war that began after Hamas attacked to Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking another 240 hostages.

“We hear you, we support you, however we have to make sure that legislative business is done for the entire state of California,” said Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson) as protesters’ chants echoed through the halls.

“This just stopped what we needed to do,” he said.

At the other end of the state Capitol, the Senate continued with its usual business above the din of protesters shouting outside the chamber. Gov. Gavin Newsom was in Los Angeles that day to promote his ballot measure to fund mental health care and a new research center at UCLA.

Hundreds of Jewish organizers calling for a ceasefire in Gaza gathered at the California Capitol in Sacramento on Wednesday, disrupting the first week of the legislative session.

(Mackenzie Mays/Los Angeles Times)

Wednesday’s protests thrust the complicated politics of war into the California Capitol, which has been quiet while the Legislature was on fall recess. The US response to the war has sparked a generational divide in the California electorate and a schism among Democrats, while polls show California Republicans largely want the US to support Israel.

Also on Wednesday, Assembly Republicans introduced a resolution condemning Hamas and the Legislature’s Jewish Caucus sent a seven-page letter to lawmakers describing a stabbing sense of fear among California Jews amid an “explosion of targeted hate.” to our community.”

The letter called on legislative leaders to form a special committee on anti-Semitism in California. He also called on lawmakers to address “the toxic anti-Jewish environment” on some public college campuses, proposed legislation enshrining Holocaust education in public schools and proposed expanding a grant program that helps institutions at risk of crimes of violence. I hate paying for security upgrades.

“I think there are a lot of people in our community who feel caught between the far right and the far left,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), co-chair of the group.

“Although the far right and the far left in America view each other as existential threats to everything they hold dear and holy, the only thing they seem to agree on is that Jews are uniquely evil and that Jews are responsible.” of the destruction of the world. problems,” Gabriel said.

As Gabriel and the Jewish group’s co-chairman, Sen. Scott Wiener, addressed reporters in a Capitol hallway, protesters in the rotunda chanted: “Scott Wiener, you can’t hide, we accuse you of genocide.”

“That’s disgusting and untrue,” Wiener said. “Apparently supporting Israel’s existence is enough for them to say we support genocide, and that’s really problematic.”

The protest was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Organizers said between 400 and 500 people participated in the rally, about half of whom are Jewish.

Jennifer Esteen, a nurse running for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, participated in the protest and called on state lawmakers to issue a resolution demanding a ceasefire.

“These decisions we can make here in California will absolutely change federal policy,” Esteen said as organizers chanted “Free Palestine.”

“California leads the way…when the Legislature of the world’s fourth-largest economy pays attention and makes a statement, it will lead this country.”

The demonstration ended peacefully after about two hours. Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (Yuba City) issued a statement criticizing “pro-Hamas radicals” for “screamingly tearing down government procedures and intimidating people into silence.”

“We must confront this extremism,” Gallagher said. “People have the right to protest, but they do not have the right to prevent elected representatives from doing the people’s business.”

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