Protesters Occupy Klobuchar's Office (from Twin Cities Daily Planet)
By Nekessa Opoti , TC Daily Planet
January 01, 2009
A group of about 40 protesters on Tuesday afternoon took over Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Minneapolis office, demanding that the Senator take a stand against the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza. After two hours, they got a meeting with Senator Klobuchar.
“We are not terrorists! And we are not extremists!” Randy Hammad, a Palestinian American said in a telephone interview with the Daily Planet. Hammad, a resident of Minnesota, was one of the protesters who waited for two hours in the office.
In their meeting, the protesters demanded that Senator Klobuchar and others “condemn Israel’s actions, support immediate ceasefire, stop U.S. financial/military support to Israel, end the blockade and allow humanitarian aid.”
Jordan Kushner, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer and a longtime political activist was critical of the actions of the Israeli government and the complacency of American legislators, saying, “I don’t think people expected anything from Klobuchar. She is as much in the Israel lobby’s pocket as anyone.”
However, Kushner expressed confidence that their protest “successfully demanded an appearance by an elected official who had insisted she had not time, was able to work together to agree on demands and to delegate people to make presentations.”
Meredith Aby, a spokesperson for the Anti-War Committee, like the other protesters, was critical of Klobuchar, “She needs to take a stand for human rights, and not be quiet… her current stance has been to be silent… she has refused to speak out against Israel.”
In a statement to the Daily Planet, Klobuchar said, “I believe that, like the U.S., Israel has a right to defend itself from terrorist attacks. As the situation continues to unfold, I believe the U.S. must work with all parties to reestablish a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible and to provide humanitarian assistance to all civilians caught in the conflict.”
“What good does humanitarian aid do if we support Israeli military action?” asked Aby.
Hammad argued that Hamas is a democratically elected government in Northern Palestine, and has the same rights to defend and protect its families and children. He added, “as a human rights activist, I am against the killing of civilians on both sides.” He expressed concern that Palestinians in Gaza do not have food, electricity and very limited access to relief organizations.
Because people like him will be sending money to Gaza, Hammad said that he is confident that the FBI will be harassing him and others for “sending money to terrorists.” He asserted, “we are not terrorists nor are we extremists….we just want to protect our defenseless people.”
Nekessa Opoti is the publisher of kenyaimagine.com, a Kenyan online magazine and newspaper and also writes for Mshale, a Minnesota-based African community newspaper.