UNITED STATES NEWS

Jewish protesters calling for cease-fire in Gaza disrupt first day of California legislative session

Jan 2, 2024, 10:15 PM

Assembly members Heath Flora, R-Modesto, left, and Josh Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, right, leave the A...

Assembly members Heath Flora, R-Modesto, left, and Josh Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, right, leave the Assembly chambers as protesters call for a cease-fire in Gaza disrupt the first day of the California legislative session in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. The Assembly session was just getting started when protesters wearing matching black t-shirts stood up in the gallery and started singing "Cease-fire now" and "Let Gaza Live." The Assembly adjourned the session.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of protesters calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war interrupted the first day of California’s legislative session on Wednesday, forcing the state Assembly to adjourn just moments after convening.

Lawmakers had just listened to the opening prayer and said the Pledge of Allegiance when protesters wearing matching black t-shirts stood from their seats and started singing “Cease-fire now” and “Let Gaza live.”

A few people unfurled banners from the chamber’s gallery that read: “Jews say never again for anyone.”

At first, Jim Wood, a Democratic assemblymember from Healdsburg who was presiding over the session, tried to continue the session despite the singing. Eventually though he called for a recess and adjourned a few minutes later.

Nearly all of the lawmakers left the floor. Protesters cheered when officials turned the lights off in the chamber, holding up the flashlights on their phones as they continued to sing, which included a lengthy call-and-response chant from the gallery.

“We are Jews and Californians, Assembly members, we call on you to join us in demanding a cease-fire now,” they said.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas’ office declined to comment. Assemblymember James Gallagher, the Republican leader, said the protesters obstructed their work.

“Look, we’re trying to open up our session. Granted, we probably didn’t have a whole lot of, you know, big business to do today. But if the objective is to shut down the government functions, I don’t think that’s a good way to go about getting your message across,” he said. “We can’t let them shut us down. We have to go about our business. We have big pressing issues this year.”

Wednesday’s protest was organized by groups including Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Binya Kóatz, a Jewish teacher and artist who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, said Americans have “not only the right but the responsibility to stop business as usual as long as our country is giving a blank check for Israel.”

Kóatz said the groups chose to protest at the California state Legislature because, while those lawmakers do not control federal money sent to Israel, “we know that state Legislatures have the ear of their national counterparts in California and that getting this body to call for a cease-fire now can put California at the forefront of the national movement.”

It’s not the first time that protesters calling for a cease-fire have disrupted events in California’s capital city. In November, protesters forced their way inside a Sacramento convention hall and prompted the California Democratic Party to cancel some events during their nominating convention. And last month, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom canceled an in-person Christmas tree lighting ceremony after protesters planned an action at the event.

Protesters did not disrupt the state Senate, which held its session as scheduled and included lawmakers giving speeches in memory of former U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died in September.

Across the country, it was a day of multiple disruptions at state capitols. A bomb threat emailed to officials in several states prompted evacuations of statehouse offices or buildings in Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and Montana.

California’s legislative session, which began Wednesday and runs through Aug. 31, is expected to be dominated by decisions on artificial intelligence and the massive budget deficit. But as Wednesday’s protest showed, ongoing fallout from the Israel-Hamas war will likely have an impact.

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus sent a letter to state lawmakers on Wednesday, calling for the creation of a committee to explore policy changes to protect the Jewish community.

“We have our own criticisms of Israel. We want the war to end,” said Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of the Jewish caucus. “We also know the cease-fire resolutions we see at the local level have at times gone off the rails in terms of dredging up a lot of anti-Jewish hate and that causes a lot of fear in our community.”

Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said his 3-year-old child now has to walk through metal detectors to enter his preschool at a local synagogue.

“The level of fear and anxiety and tension is unlike anything I have ever seen in my lifetime,” Gabriel said.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the chamber on Thursday morning. But the bulk of their work will come later, after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom reveals his plan for how to cover an estimated $68 billion deficit — a shortfall that is larger than the entire operating budgets of many states.

And with many California companies at the forefront of the artificial intelligence boom, a number of state lawmakers are eyeing ways to govern the use of the technology before it dominates daily life — much like social media.

State Sen. Steve Padilla proposed a measure Wednesday to require California to establish safety, privacy, and nondiscrimination standards around generative AI tools and services. Those standards would eventually be used as qualifications in future state contracts. He also introduced a plan to create a state-run research center to further study the technology.

Assemblymember Akilah Weber said she’ll try to tackle “deepfakes” through a bill that would require labeling on AI-generated content.

United States News

FILE - Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón speaks during a news conference Feb. 22,...

Associated Press

Los Angeles County district attorney seeks reelection in contest focused on feeling of public safety

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County voters are set to decide next month if embattled District Attorney George Gascón will remain the head of the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office in a race centered on perceptions of public safety. Gascón, who was elected in 2020 on a criminal justice platform alongside a wave of progressive […]

22 minutes ago

In combo of undated selfie images provided courtesy of the Dime Doe family, show Dime Doe, a Black ...

Associated Press

A love affair unraveled before a Black transgender woman was fatally shot in rural South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A Black transgender woman and the guy she was secretly dating had just been pulled over in rural South Carolina. Dime Doe, the driver, was worried. She already had points against her license and didn’t want another ticket to stop her from getting behind the wheel. Daqua Lameek Ritter, whom she […]

47 minutes ago

Associated Press

Remains found over 50 years ago identified through DNA technology as Oregon teen

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The remains of a teenager found more than 50 years ago have been identified through advanced DNA technology as a young woman who went missing from Portland, Oregon State Police said. The remains are that of Sandra Young, a high school student who disappeared in 1968 or 1969, police said Thursday […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

California man arrested for making threats against election official in Arizona after 2022 vote

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A San Diego man was arrested Thursday on suspicion of leaving threatening messages on the personal cellphone of an Arizona election worker he accused of rigging the 2022 election results, federal prosecutors said. The 52-year-old was charged with one count of communicating an interstate threat and will make an initial court […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Two more candidates file papers to run for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Two more candidates filed paperwork Thursday to appear on Pennsylvania’s primary ballots for U.S. Senate as Democratic Sen. Bob Casey runs for a fourth term and Democrats try to maintain a majority in the narrowly divided chamber. Brandi Tomasetti, a Republican from Lancaster County, and William Parker, a Democrat from Allegheny […]

4 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

Jewish protesters calling for cease-fire in Gaza disrupt first day of California legislative session