About 300 protesters calling for a ceasefire were arrested at the Capitol, organizers say. | ET REALITY


Hundreds of protesters invaded a Congressional building in Washington on Wednesday afternoon to demand a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas, leading to approximately 300 arrests and restricting access to the Capitol.

The rally was organized by two progressive Jewish groups, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, and about 400 of its members gathered inside the rotunda of the Cannon House office building, led by about 25 rabbis who read testimonies from Palestinians in Gaza and They recited prayers. Outside, hundreds more shouted “cease fire now” and chanted in Hebrew and English.

Demonstrations are not allowed in Congressional buildings. About 300 protesters were arrested, organizers estimated, although Capitol Police declined to comment on the number beyond saying on social media platform X that three were charged with assault on a police officer. The protesters were restrained with zip ties and led to police vans.

Linda Holtzman, a rabbi from Philadelphia, said she was protesting because of her faith, her values ​​and her Jewish history, a theme echoed by other attendees. Rabbi Holtzman, who said she was concerned about escalating violence against civilians in Gaza, said her grandmother survived the Holocaust and that she was taught to fight for all human life.

“Where there is no justice, I have to be a voice for justice,” he said.

Yasir Barakt, who moved to the United States from Gaza about 18 years ago, attended on behalf of his family in Gaza, where more than two million people are going without water, food and electricity. Barakt said he had had limited contact with his family because of the conditions and blamed the United States for what he described as funding violence against Palestinians.

Jim Best, 77, who identified himself as a gay, “red-blooded grandfather and patriotic taxpayer,” visited Gaza in 2016, a trip, he said, that accentuated the disparity in quality of life among Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and those of the Israelis who enjoy relative wealth in the area. He said he felt compelled to protest.

“My heart, my mind and my soul will never be the same,” Best said.

The rally at the Capitol came just two days after a rally near the White House on Monday that Jewish Voice for Peace executive director Stefanie Fox estimated drew at least 5,000 people. Activists at Wednesday’s rally asked protesters to attend another protest, near the Israeli embassy in Washington, later that night. On Friday, the organization plans to participate in a rally with several activist groups on the National Mall.

“People come from all over the country,” said Eva Borgwardt, national spokesperson for If Not Now. She believes that protesting violence is a way to honor fallen Israelis and Palestinians. “Many of us are mourning,” she said, adding: “The horrific bombing cannot be the answer.”

Robert Jimison contributed with reports.

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