A group of Palestine solidarity activists in Los Angeles, including human rights defenders and members of the clergy, have been arrested after being forcibly removed from a peaceful sit-in at the local offices of US Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Estee Chandler of Jewish Voice for Peace was among four of twelve activists who were arrested just after 2:20pm Monday. The Electronic Intifada spoke with Estee Chandler at about 1pm on Monday as she was continuing to sit in in Feinstein’s office. At 1:45, Chandler said that Los Angeles police were threatening the activists with arrest and she was being told to give up her cell phone.
The activists have been demanding a meeting with Feinstein and her colleague, US Senator Barbara Boxer, to protest the two California senators’ support for a bill that would send more weaponry to Israel. Those demands were repeatedly ignored or rejected.
Shakeel Syed of American Muslims for Palestine, who participated in the action, tweeted at 2:10pm “CD [civil disobedience] in progress” just as the police began arresting the activists.
A broad coalition of Palestine solidarity groups and faith-based organizations are urging supporters of human rights to call Feinstein’s and Boxer’s offices, demanding the politicans end their support for Senate Resolution 498, “which means sending further arms to Israel” and to “demand that the Senators support a full, independent investigation into Operation Protective Edge” — the name Israel has given to its assault on Gaza that has killed almost two thousand people since 7 July.
The activists also sat in at Boxer’s office as well, but as Chandler said, the action had ended earlier on Monday.
The first interview with Chandler can be heard via the audio player here, or read in the transcript below.
War crimes inquiry
The activists have also drafted letters to Feinstein and Boxer calling on the senators to support an international inquiry into “possible human rights violations and war crimes committed during Israel’s military offensive,” amongst other demands.
Taher Herzallah, national campus coordinator with American Muslims for Palestine, and a member of the Irvine 11 — a group of university students who were prosecuted and convicted after they disrupted a speech given by an Israeli official in 2010 — is part of the team of activists and clergy who sat in at Feinstein’s office. A selection of his tweets is below:
An action alert sent out by Jewish Voice for Peace urges supporters to call Sen. Boxer’s office at (213) 894-5000 and Sen. Feinstein’s Office at (310) 914-7300, and adds:
At this very moment, an interfaith delegation organized and led by the Los Angeles chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine is inside the offices of Senators Boxer and Feinstein right now, demanding a meeting with the Senators to express dismay with their near unconditional support to Israel’s ongoing occupation and recent invasion of Gaza, resulting in close to two thousand deaths, 80 percent of whom were civilians including women and nearly 500 children to date.
We have begun a sit-in of both offices simultaneously and we are hearing words of encouragement from rabbis, pastors, and imams from all over California. We need your help too.
Transcript of interview with Estee Chandler:
Estee Chandler: This is Estee Chandler, I’m an organizer of the Los Angeles chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, and I’m here with friends, clergy, people from American Muslims for Palestine, CODEPINK, we have Christian Peacemaker Teams, we have Quaker clergy, we have a rabbi with us, and we are twelve of us, sitting in, feeling very strongly about communicating with Senator Feinstein. We are hearing from our elected officials that they are working very hard for a ceasefire agreement — and yet we see what they actually are doing are going down to the Senate floor and voting to send more weaponry to the region.
We think that the time has come when the status quo has got to end. And we decided, the twelve of us, to stop the status quo in our lives, of going out in the street and demonstrating, gathering hundreds and thousands of people every weekend — because our elected officials don’t seem to be listening to our call.
So today we came to tell them in person, and to deliver a letter demanding that they actually take action and not just revert back to the status quo which of course will end in continued occupation, continued siege on Gaza, continuing disproportionate deaths of Palestinians, and we want to break that status quo.
So we are here and staying.
We did come in, we did say that our demand was to communicate with Senator Feinstein, we were brought into a conference room — it’s air conditioned, it’s quite nice. After being told that nobody would talk to us, after close to an hour the state director — her state director did show up and come and talk to us. And he did sit here with us and listen to us and listen to everything we had to say, and at the end of it he said he would be happy to convey our messages to Senator Feinstein but she is not going to talk with us — that she’ll be back in town in October and we can fill out a form and will try to get a meeting with her then, but as far as he was concerned, he had listened to what we had to say, and he was going to go back to work. He would let us know he would be here until 8pm, and he’s now just come back in …
Nora Barrows-Friedman: What is he saying?
EC: He’s offering for us to talk to Chris Gaspar in the DC office who is the — he’s the legislative assistant in Washington for Senator Feinstein who deals with Middle Eastern affairs. So I think some of our people are going to get on the phone with him, but of course our demand is to communicate to Senator Feinstein.
NBF: And there’s also a simultaneous sit-in at Senator Barbara Boxer’s office as well, can you talk about the legacy and the history of both Feinstein and Boxer, so-called liberal progressive democrats have had in terms of their staunch support of Israeli military policy?
EC: There was a sit-in at Barbara Boxer’s office, which has ended. There was an understanding that there are LAPD [Los Angeles Police Department] coming in and they’re asking me to be quiet because they have Chris Gaspar on the line now.
But the reason why we’re here is because if we leave, we go back to the status quo, we go back to Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer’s supporting without any reservations anything and everything that the Israeli government does. It doesn’t seem to matter if it breaks American laws, like the Arms Export Control Act, or other laws — they come out, they’ll say what they need to say, they’ll never talk about whether Palestinians have a right to exist, or have a right to feed their children and have them go to school safely — they’ll just talk about Israel’s right to defend itself.
And we think that the status quo of accepting their words and watching their deeds has to end.
NBF: How long are you prepared to sit in at Senator Feinstein’s office?
EC: As long as it takes. Those of us in this group are prepared until we talk to Senator Feinstein or are removed by law enforcement.