Arrested for peacefully protesting Israel

May 26, 2015

Jay Poppa reports from Connecticut on an overreaction to an act of civil disobedience.

ON MAY 12, two Jewish activists based in New Haven, Connecticut, were arrested for peacefully protesting a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Dan Fischer and Gregory Williams entered a synagogue in Westport that was hosting a luncheon and fundraiser sponsored by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). Their intent was to peacefully read a testimony written by a Palestinian woman whose son was killed in Gaza during the 2009 Israeli Operation Cast Lead.

Upon entering, they stated to synagogue staff that they had come to read their statement as a form of peaceful protest against a brigadier general who had been invited to speak at the luncheon about his role in the IDF, and also to help raise money for the Israeli army, which has been implicated in numerous war crimes--most recently, the widespread targeting of civilians during last year's attack on Gaza.

Almost immediately, Fischer and Williams were violently tackled by the synagogue staff and held on the ground until the Westport police arrived. While they were forcibly detained, they continued to read their statement from their phones, until those devices were kicked away from them. They continued their protest with chants, "Free, free Palestine!"

Dan Fischer (left) and Gregory Williams
Dan Fischer (left) and Gregory Williams

At this point, the synagogue staff, along with participants of the luncheon, called the police and claimed that both Fischer and Williams were armed with a gun. The police found that the two protesters didn't have a gun or any other weapon, but the false police report led to several local schools being put on lockdown.

The synagogue staff's overreaction and aggressive behavior toward two peaceful protesters and the decision of local law enforcement to lock down local schools are disturbing signs of the hostility facing those who want to stand up for the rights of Palestinian people and expose the true nature of the Israeli state.

Also disturbing are the comments swirling around from bloggers, politicians and others that allude to Fischer and Williams as "terrorists."

The hostility and false claims were part of the atmosphere in which Fischer and Williams were arraigned on May 21 to face charges of breach of peace and criminal trespassing in the first degree. The judge set their next court date for June 21. These activists need our help.

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