Disruption occurs as cease-fire protesters interrupt California’s first legislative session in 2024

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By Carina

In a powerful demonstration of solidarity against the ongoing war in Gaza, over 1,000 protesters converged on the Capitol building on January 3. Chanting, singing, and demanding an immediate cease-fire, the diverse group aimed to draw attention to the situation’s urgency.

“What matters is the sanctity and sacredness of our lives. Today is the first day of the legislative session, and we have told leaders that there will be no business as usual while people are dying.” Jennifer Esteen, a protester and Alameda County supervisor candidate, said. 

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Unified protest: Symbolic attire and chants fill the gallery

Wearing face masks and patiently waiting throughout the building, the protesters awaited the opening of the first Assembly session scheduled for 1 p.m. 

Upon entering, the crowd revealed a unified message by removing outer layers to display black tee-shirts reading: “Jews say: not in our name” and “cease-fire now.”

“We are here today with hundreds of Jewish voices. We’re calling on our leaders to stand up and demand an end to genocide,” said Liv Kunin-Berkowitz, Media Coordinator for Jewish Voice for Peace.

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Gallery erupts in song and banners for peace 

Prompted by an organizer, the protesters broke into verses and chants advocating for an end to the war. 

Large banners demanding a cease-fire were unfurled and hung from the gallery balcony, intensifying the visual impact of the demonstration.

“This level of disruption cannot continue. We have to conduct state business without interruption.” James Gallagher, Minority Leader Assemblyman, stated.

Legislative response: Adjournment amidst persistent protests

Efforts by lawmakers to restore order proved challenging, leading to an eventual adjournment with no acknowledgment of the ongoing demonstration. 

Protesters, undeterred, continued their chants and songs as legislators exited the room.

“There are no innocent bystanders. We want to make sure California’s tax dollars stay in the community,” added Binya Kóatz, a protester. 

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Capitol rotunda rally: Voices amplify for a cause

Protesters regrouped in the Capitol rotunda, engaging in several hours of speeches intertwined with chants advocating for a “free, free Palestine” and condemning the war. 

Emotions ran high as speakers emphasized the need for leaders to demand an end to what they termed genocide.

Organizers pledge commitment to ongoing protests

Organizers affirmed their commitment to continuous protests until the war’s conclusion, emphasizing that their cause extends beyond the Capitol gathering. 

The war, which began after an attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists on October 7, has triggered widespread demonstrations across the United States over the last three months.

Legislative action: Resolution against Hamas on the horizon

With Assembly Republicans planning to introduce a resolution condemning Hamas, tensions around the issue are set to escalate further. 

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Minority Leader Assemblyman James Gallagher expressed the need for clarity in denouncing what he described as Hamas’ “savage ideology of terror and hate.”

A call for change amidst charged emotions

While the Capitol rally showcased a fervent call for peace, the complex geopolitical situation continues to elicit strong reactions. 

As lawmakers prepare for the second day of the session on January 4, the echoes of the protest linger, symbolizing a broader dialogue on the responsibilities of leadership during times of conflict.

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