Protesters Demand Gaza Ceasefire: Hundreds Arrested at US Congress Sit-In
Protesters Demand Gaza Ceasefire: Hundreds Arrested at US Congress Sit-In

In a powerful demonstration, approximately 500 activists were arrested at the United States Congress in Washington, DC, as they staged a sit-in to protest what they called "Israel's ongoing oppression of Palestinians." Organized by the group Jewish Voice for Peace, this peaceful act of civil disobedience aimed to draw attention to the situation in Gaza, where the death toll has been rising due to Israel's recent bombardment.

Clad in shirts bearing the message "Not in our name," the protesters gathered in the congressional building's lobby, unfurling a large banner that read "ceasefire." As the group peacefully voiced their concerns, they were encircled by law enforcement. In a show of solidarity, about 10,000 people also marched through the streets of the US capital in support of the cause, according to Jewish Voice for Peace.

Jewish Voice for Peace issued a statement declaring, "We shut down Congress to draw mass attention to the US complicity in Israel's ongoing oppression of Palestinians."

By Wednesday evening, US police reported having cleared the building of protesters and were in the process of making arrests.

The recent escalation in Gaza began after Hamas, the governing authority in the enclave, launched an attack into southern Israel on October 7. In response, Israel imposed a "total siege" on the Gaza Strip, blocking access to essential resources such as food, water, electricity, and medical supplies for its 2.3 million residents. Israeli authorities claim that at least 1,400 people, the majority of them civilians, have lost their lives in the conflict, with 199 others taken captive.

Since the onset of hostilities, Israel has conducted an aerial campaign against Gaza, resulting in significant destruction and loss of life. According to Palestinian authorities, more than 3,400 individuals, including a third who were children, have been killed in the bombardment.

The Israeli attacks and the ongoing siege of Gaza have sparked criticism as a form of collective punishment and have triggered widespread anger not only in the Middle East but also around the world.

Jay Saper of Jewish Voice for Peace emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating, "It has never been more important for Jews and all people in the US to rise up with literally everything we have. The way that we would have wanted others to rise up for our ancestors."

During the rally, one Jewish protester, whose grandparents had survived the Holocaust, shared that he felt compelled to honor his family's history by taking to the streets. He stated, "I see my job as carrying on their legacy as Jews who see their role as standing up for stateless and oppressed people all throughout the world. I see no better way to do that than fighting for a ceasefire and peace in Gaza today."

The United States is a staunch ally of Israel, providing substantial military aid and diplomatic support. President Joe Biden recently met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Israel, affirming the US's support for Israel's actions against Hamas.

On the same day as the meeting, the United States was the sole country to vote against and veto a resolution at the United Nations Security Council, which had called for a humanitarian pause to allow much-needed aid into Gaza.

Eliza Klein of Jewish Voice for Peace expressed the need for international outcry, saying, "What we know from past Israeli state atrocities against Palestinians is that the bombs only stop once there is a sufficient mass outcry from the international community. It's on us to build that outcry -- as fast as we possibly can."

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