Hundreds Rally at Rep Clark’s Office as MA Unions Demand: “Ceasefire Now!”

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By Eli Gerzon and Henry De Groot

MALDEN — More than 300 union members and community activists picketed outside the constituent offices of Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) on Wednesday evening, calling on her to endorse a ceasefire of the ongoing Israeli invasion of Gaza. Clark is the second most powerful Democrat in the House and has built her career as a progressive who opposes gun violence and supports unions, women, children, and democracy.

“Katherine Clark has the power to put an end to the bloodshed. What has she done? Nothing!”

Yousif Abdallah, North Shore Labor Council – AFL-CIO

A union delegation met with Clark’s staff inside while picketers chanted “Ceasefire Now!” on the sidewalk. A delegation from Jewish Voice for Peace had previously met with Clark to discuss the ceasefire and told Working Mass she responded: “If I thought calling for a ceasefire would save lives, I would have already done it.”

Later in the evening, a second picket was formed in Belmont outside the Unitarian Universalist church, where Clark was speaking at an event on the state of democracy along with Massachusetts Senate President Pro Tempore Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont). Three activists interrupted her speech to call for a ceasefire before being escorted out by security.

A Ceasefire Would Save Lives: The Ongoing Genocide in Gaza

Despite what Clark says, a ceasefire is necessary to stop the horrific mass killings of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military and the Israeli blockade of necessary food, fuel, and medical supplies.

In over 100 days of fighting since October 7, more than 32,000 have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank, including more than 11,000 children. On October 7, Hamas forces killed approximately 695 Israeli civilians and 373 Israeli soldiers

The BBC reports that almost 2 million Gazas — 85 percent of the population — have been forced from their homes. All schools in Gaza remain closed, and infectious diseases are spreading rapidly among refugees. Israel is using water and food as a weapon against Palestinians: “Gazans now make up 80 per cent of all people facing famine or catastrophic hunger worldwide.” Israeli Defense Forces have intentionally targeted hospitals; UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that only 16 of 32 hospitals “are even partially functioning.”

South Africa has sued Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, calling on the court to immediately grant emergency measures to stop the war in Gaza; South Africa has accused Israel of conducting a genocide and maintaining an apartheid regime.

Clark represents the 5th Congressional District, which includes suburbs north and west of Boston, including Malden, Melrose, Revere, Framingham, and parts of Cambridge. She has served as the Democrats’ House Minority Whip since last year, making her the second-ranking House Democrat after Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was Clark’s top donor in the 2023-24 cycle.

From the all-Democratic Massachusetts federal delegation, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as well as Reps. Stephen Lynch, Jim McGovern, and Ayanna Pressley have all endorsed the call for a ceasefire. In addition to Rep. Clark, Sen. Ed Markey, as well as Reps. Bill Keating, Richard Neal, Seth Moulton, Jake Auchincloss, and Lori Trahan have failed to call for a ceasefire. Markey and Warren voted in support of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Senate Resolution 504 which would have conditioned U.S. aid to Israel on an investigation into human rights abuses.

Labor Moves in Support of a Ceasefire

The double demonstrations were the state’s first labor actions in support of the Palestinian people and a ceasefire since the escalation of the fighting after October 7. The rally was largely organized through Massachusetts Labor for a Free Palestine, an informal group of union organizers that has come together since October 7.

The event was endorsed by several major labor unions including the Massachusetts Teachers Association, SEIU Local 509, the Harvard Graduate Student Union-UAW, and UAW Region 9A, as well as the North Shore Labor Council – AFL-CIO, the Western Mass Area Labor Federation – AFL-CIO, Pride At Work-Eastern Mass, Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston, One Fair Wage, and the Boston Democratic Socialists of America.

Several speakers expressed that if Clark failed to endorse the ceasefire demand, the progressive movement would put forward a challenger in the next Democratic primary, calling on the crowd to chant “Vote Her Out!” Clark has not faced a primary challenge since 2014.

The rally comes days after SEIU, the nation’s second largest labor union, endorsed a ceasefire. SEIU is the largest U.S. union to support the ceasefire movement yet; the UAW, the nation’s sixth largest union, endorsed a ceasefire in December.

The growing support in the U.S. labor movement for a ceasefire is a marked reversal in labor’s orientation since fighting escalated more than three months ago. The days following the October 7 attack were marked by labor unions expressing support for Israel, and union activists who expressed solidarity with Palestine faced harassment, intimidation, and doxxing.

Labor calls for a ceasefire were initially confined to an online petition backed by UFCW Local 3000 and United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). Activists organizing in locals around the country have gradually won local union support for the ceasefire demand.

Eli Gerzon is an editor of Working Mass, a member of Boston DSA, and an activist with Jewish Voice for Peace.

Henry De Groot is an editor of Working Mass, a member of Boston DSA, and the author of the book “Student Radicals and the Rise of Russian Marxism.”

Featured image credit: Yousif Abdallah of the North Shore Labor Council – AFL-CIO addresses the picket on January 24, 2024. Photo by Clare Kelley/Working Mass

Additional photography contributed by Pine McCabe.

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