More than 100 congressional staffers staged a walkout on Wednesday to call on the lawmakers they work for to endorse a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Gathered on the U.S. Capitol steps, the staffers held a moment of silence and led prayers for the 1,400 Israelis killed by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack and the more than 10,000 Palestinians killed by the U.S.-backed Israeli force in its retaliatory bombardment of Gaza.
“We are congressional staffers on Capitol Hill, and we are no longer comfortable staying silent,” a member of the group, Congressional Staff for a Ceasefire, said in a statement read at the vigil. Most wore masks to remain anonymous. “Most of our bosses on Capitol Hill are not listening to the people they represent. We demand our leaders speak up: Call for a cease-fire, a release of all hostages, and an immediate de-escalation now.”
Grassroots support for the U.S. to pressure its ally Israel into entering cease-fire talks is mounting, with a Nov. 4 protest in Washington, D.C., attracting hundreds of thousands of participants. A recent Data for Progress poll found that 80% of the president’s party and 66% of voters overall want President Joe Biden to call for a cease-fire.
But the administration has rejected applying pressure for a cease-fire, and only a handful of congressional Democrats are backing a cease-fire resolution introduced by Rep. Cori Bush (R-Mo.). A few dozen have indicated they support “a humanitarian pause of limited space and time.” Some members of the Biden administration have described a “chilling effect” that halts any debate over military aid to Israel.
It is because of this disconnect that Congressional Staff for a Ceasefire came together, said a member who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation.
“It was incredibly important that there were opportunities for staffers to come out and make clear to both members and constituents that we should not be complicit in this, we should not sit by and allow this violence to take place,” they said.
Most of the participants, they added, were junior staffers who speak to angry constituents every day. Staffers from more than 40 offices in both parties joined the walkout.
Participants laid down more than 10,000 flowers to represent the victims of the violence so far. The vigil dispersed after warnings from U.S. Capitol Police.
“We were horrified by the brutal Oct. 7 attacks on Israeli civilians, and we are horrified by the overwhelming response by the Israeli government that has killed thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” a Congressional Staff for a Ceasefire participant said on the Capitol steps. “Our constituents are pleading for a cease-fire, and we are the staffers answering their calls.”