A protest of about 1,000 people angry over US support for Israel in its war against Hamas poured into the convention center where the California Democratic Party is meeting on Saturday night, prompting guards to lock the entrances at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Sacramento and causing an early end to the day’s official events.
Delegates and other participants were temporarily blocked from leaving and entering the building after demonstrators stormed security around 6 p.m. and opened several doors, allowing more people to stream into the building where California Democrats are gathering for a week of events preparing for the 2024 election.
“Cease-fire now. Cease-fire now!” they shouted as they marched through the convention hall waving Palestinian flags and carrying “Free Palestine” signs.
California Democratic Party officials are canceling evening meetings and parties “for the safety and security of our delegates and convention participants,” spokeswoman Shery Yang said in a statement.
The demonstration was not as dramatic as Wednesday’s protest at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, where police clashed with demonstrators calling for a cease-fire as members of Congress gathered inside. Both instances show how the war between Israel and Hamas is dividing the left as the US heads into an election year.
Protesters in Sacramento called President Biden “Genocide Joe” and said, “Bombing hospitals and children is a crime.”
The Israeli military has searched the Gaza Strip’s largest hospital for a Hamas command center allegedly located under the building, a claim denied by Hamas and hospital staff.
The protest in Sacramento started early in the afternoon in a park far away. The crowd heard from speakers who criticized the Israeli bombing of Gaza after Hamas’ October 7 invasion, in which militants massacred about 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped about 240. In response, the Israeli military killed more than 11,500 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian health authority, with an additional 2,700 missing, believed to be buried under the rubble.
Many Jewish delegates to the convention expressed frustration that protesters who had not registered to attend the convention were able to enter the facility so quickly.
Naomi Goldman, a board member of Democrats for Israel California who wore a “Nice Jewish Girl” T-shirt, said it hurt to hear protesters chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” While many Palestinians consider the restriction a cry for freedom, many Jews hear it as a message that Israel must be eradicated.
“I eagerly await a meaningful comment from my party on the hate speech and violence directed at the Jewish community,” Goldman said, “as well as a full condemnation of what the delegates are doing to disrupt our assembly and how it can ensure safe spaces for all who hold diverse opinions.”
The California Legislative Jewish Caucus issued a statement saying that many Jewish delegates who had been concerned about attending the convention, given the rise in antisemitism since the Oct. 7 massacre, “now believe it is unsafe to attend.” join everyone.”
“We fully support the right to protest loudly and forcefully. But the attack on security and the closure of a democratic process—especially with chants that call for the destruction of Israel and appear to justify the attack by Hamas—are completely unacceptable,” said the statement from the caucus, led by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).
Ameera Abouromeleh, an 18-year-old Palestinian American who joined the protest with six members of her family, including her 74-year-old grandfather, who she said was born in Jerusalem, said she was looking forward to voting next year. for the first time as a way to show family unity that remains in the West Bank.
“I feel very lucky to be 18 because this is the time when I can make a difference in what happens to my people and my land,” said the community college student from the East Bay Area. “Even if you crush someone under the rubble, our voices will still be heard.”
He said that in the presidential election, he plans to vote for Cornel West, a progressive academic who is running as an independent. But he’s not sure who he wants in the California race for the U.S. Senate seat previously held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The Democratic candidates in that race — including Reps. Katie Porter of Irvine, Adam B. Schiff of Burbank and Barbara Lee of Oakland – made the convention rounds Saturday seeking their party’s endorsement. In preliminary results released Saturday night, none of the candidates got the 60% support needed to win the party’s endorsement.