Activists arrested at Rep. Golden’s Bangor office amid increased calls for ceasefire in Gaza
Seven protesters were arrested at Rep. Jared Golden’s office in Bangor on Wednesday night after staging a sit-in to demand that the Maine Democrat call for a ceasefire in Gaza, where the death toll from Israeli strikes has surpassed 10,000 people, including many children.
“As residents of Maine, we are here today to demand that Rep. Jared Golden and all of Maine’s congressional delegation support House Resolution 786, a congressional resolution that calls for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine,” the protesters told the Maine Beacon in a statement.
The demonstrators were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing and brought to Penobscot County Jail before being released on bail. Those arrested included freelance writer Lawrence Reichard, well-known artist Robert Shetterly, Dudley Hendrick of Veterans for Peace, Jamila Levasseur, Kristen Salvatore of Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights, Russell Wray of Veterans for Peace, and Stephen Benson.
During the sit-in, participants read names of those who have been killed in Gaza.
In an interview with Maine Morning Star, Salvatore, a Penobscot resident, said she participated in the action because of her opposition to the ongoing attacks in Gaza and her frustration with Golden’s response to the conflict, including his vote in favor of a Republican-backed bill to provide an additional $14.3 billion to support Israel’s military operations, which would be paid for by cutting IRS funding.
“Rep. Golden [has] not only not called for a ceasefire, but he just voted to give another $14.3 billion to Israel,” Salvatore said. “This is my tax money, and to see it go to drop bombs on civilians is reprehensible.”
Salvatore said she has called Golden’s office, signed petitions and written letters urging him to support a ceasefire. She said that it’s essential for the congressman to examine the conflict through a historical lens, noting that violence between Israel and Palestine didn’t start when the Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,000 people and taking roughly 240 Israelis hostage. The conflict has been ongoing for decades as Israel has steadily encroached on Palestinian land, occupied its territories, and clamped down on freedom of movement in Gaza and the West Bank, Salvatore said.
“I don’t support Hamas. I don’t like what they did. I don’t think killing civilians is ever justified. It is never justified,” Salvatore said. “And what Israel is doing is out of proportion to what happened, and it has gone way past self-defense.”
Golden one of 22 Dems to support Tlaib censure
The action in Bangor came after Golden was one of 22 Democrats to join most Republicans in the U.S. House in voting to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan earlier this week.
The House voted 234-188 to adopt the resolution against Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American member of Congress, for a handful of statements she made in the month since Hamas launched an attack into southern Israel.
Supporters of the resolution keyed in on Tlaib’s defense of the phrase “from the river to the sea,” a call some organizations like the Anti-Defamation League argue is antisemitic and refers to the destruction of the Israeli state. The refrain is, however, a common chant at pro-Palestine rallies in support of freedom from Israel’s brutal occupation of Gaza — which has often been referred to as an “open air prison” — and its repeated incursions into the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.
Tlaib has defended the phrase, stating that it is “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”
And in a speech prior to the censure vote, the Michigan Democrat took her colleagues in the House to task, accusing them of blind support for Israel’s response to the Hamas attack. Amnesty International has described that response as an “unlawful” and “cataclysmic assault” that has “caused mass civilian casualties and must be investigated as war crimes.” Thus far, over 4,000 children have been killed in Gaza during the series of strikes by Israel.
“The cries of the Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. What I don’t understand is why the cries of Palestinians sound different to you all,” Tlaib said in her speech.
Following the censure vote, critics of the resolution pointed out that many of the Democrats who voted to rebuke Tlaib have received money from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC. An extremely powerful D.C.-based influence group, AIPAC has contributed millions to congressional candidates from both parties and is known for its strong support of Israel’s far-right prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The group has staunchly backed Israeli military operations in Gaza, even as civilian casualties rise.
The organization has also targeted some left-wing Democrats, including members of the “Squad” who have criticized providing Israel with unconditional military aid. Furthermore, AIPAC backed dozens of Republicans who voted in favor of overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election.
During the 2022 election cycle, Golden received $31,530 from AIPAC. Of that total, $23,630 came from “members, employees or owners of the organization, and those individuals’ immediate family members” and $7,900 came from the group itself.
A spokesperson for Golden did not respond to a request for comment about the money the Maine Democrat has received from AIPAC. The spokesperson also did not respond to questions about the congressman’s vote to censure Tlaib, the protest at his Bangor office on Wednesday, and Golden’s reaction to calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
However, on Oct. 12, days after the Hamas attack, Golden issued a statement condemning a pro-Palestine rally in Portland.
“There is no equivalent evil in the comparably reserved but necessarily strong military response by Israel in defense of its nation and its people,” Golden said. “Most of us would expect no less, perhaps even more if this were happening in America, and in fact, Americans have been killed and taken hostage.”
Calls for peace increase
The demonstration at Golden’s office comes as demands for a ceasefire continue to proliferate.
Last week, activists calling for Rep. Chellie Pingree to support a ceasefire were arrested at her office in Portland. And on the national level, tens of thousands of people have urged President Joe Biden to cut off military aid to Israel and to encourage Netanyahu to halt military operations in Gaza. That demand comes as the United Nations warned last week that “time is running out to prevent genocide and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”
Biden’s commitment to supporting Israel is contributing to his sinking poll numbers, which come as the president prepares for a reelection campaign in 2024. One poll released late last month showed Biden’s support among Arab Americans had plummeted from 59% in 2020 to just 17% amid the conflict in Gaza.
A separate survey from October by Data for Progress found that a majority of voters (66%) want the U.S. to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.