Palestinians stood shoulder to shoulder with Jews and allies at a protest outside the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference which kicked off at the Washington Convention Center on Sunday. DC Police arrested several after brawls broke out. There were several minor injuries reported.
If Not Now, a Jewish student civil rights group, staged a blockade with 12 students linked with PVC pipes and chains at the convention center entrances, effectively closing off access to the convention for a short period. Police removed the human blockade and led the protesters away but they were not arrested or charged.
Four other activists with If Not Now gained credentialed access to the AIPAC convention, dropped two banners over a parapet, and disrupted the convention for about five minutes, before they were removed by police and security. They also were not arrested or charged. Their credentials to access the event were taken away.
Heated confrontations broke out between AIPAC attendees and protesters as police formed barricades outside the convention center. Protesters beat plastic water-filled barricades with sticks while they chanted, drawing attention from AIPAC attendees inside. Over 100 DC Police formed human barricades to keep sides apart.
At issue is the continuing occupation of Palestine by Israeli forces and construction of settlements in the occupied territories. If Not Now reported that 1000 of its members were involved in the protests making it the largest ever Jewish led protest against AIPAC.
“AIPAC has done more than any other Jewish institution to entrench the occupation and normalize its effects in the American Jewish community,” If Not Now posted on its website.
Dr. Cornel West and joined the protesters outside Washington Convention Center. West spoke to the attendees on a bullhorn from outside the convention center, “We come to tell some of our more conservative brothers and sisters on the inside you do not represent the best of the Jewish prophetic tradition,” he said.
Noah Westerich, one of the Jewish youth who took part in the banner drop, sang in Hebrew as he was removed by police from the conference. “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation and neither shall they know war anymore,” he sang.
The banner drop was the first of its kind inside an AIPAC conference. “We will not stand for endless occupation,” said Daniel, an activist who streamed the banner drop. “The occupation is a moral catastrophe for the Jewish people and a daily nightmare for Palestinians who live under it,” he said. Three other IF Not Now activists named Becca, Daniel, and Gabe, took part in the banner drop.
AIPAC reported that over 15,000 would attend the pro-Israel conference. Mike Pence and Benjamin Netanyahu were among those expected to speak at the three day conference which will run until Tuesday. Protests are expected to mirror the three-day long event.
Video by: Alejandro Alvarez/ News2Share