By Eli Gerzon and Henry De Groot
MALDEN – More than 300 union members and community activists picketed outside the constituent offices of Congresswoman Katherine Clark 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, who told Working Mass she responded that “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 Will Brownsberger, President pro tempore of the Massachusetts Senate. 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 the October 7 attack, 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, Netherlands, 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.
Congresswoman Clark is the representative for congressional district 5, which includes suburbs north and west of Boston including Malden, Melrose, Revere, Framingham, and parts of Cambridge. She has served as the House Minority Whip for the Democratic Party since last year, making her the second most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was Clark’s top donor in the 2023-2024 cycle.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as well as Massachusetts Congressional representatives Steven Lynch, James McGovern, and Ayanna Presley have all endorsed the call for a ceasefire. In addition to Congresswoman Clark, congressional representatives Bill Keating, Richard Neal, Seth Moulton, Jake Auchincloss, and Lori Trahan and Senator Ed Markey have failed to call for a ceasefire. Senator Markey and Senator Warren voted in support of Senator Bernie Sanders’s 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 Free Palestine, an informal group of union organizers which 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, UAW Region 9A, the North Shore Labor Council – AFL-CIO, Western Mass Area Labor Federation – AFL-CIO, Pride At Work-Eastern Mass, as well as 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!” Congresswoman Clark has not faced a primary challenge since 2014.
The rally comes days after SEIU, the nation’s second largest labor union, SEIU, endorsed a ceasefire. SEIU is the largest U.S. union to support the ceasefire movement yet; 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 which 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