Sanders campaign backtracks after removing Palestine activists from Boston rally
After members of Boston Students for Justice in Palestine were removed from the overflow room at a Bernie Sanders rally, the democratic presidential candidate’s campaign issued an apology.
The student activists were asked to take down a sign they brought to the event that read, “Will Ya #feelthebern for Palestine?” or leave. When they pressed an event staff member about keeping the sign, cell phone video taken at the rally shows security guard telling the activists “I’m verbally trespassing you, if you come back you will be arrested.”
Although the students say they were well-received by Sanders supporters in the crowd, the progressive candidate’s campaign team did not find this sort of political dissent appealing enough to allow it to continue further. One of the members, Sana Hashmani, said, “They told us to either put the sign away or leave. We asked why, and they said that Bernie’s campaign staff had said the sign had to go.” Security then gave a verbal trespass order and escorted the SJP members off of the property. All of this after only minutes of carrying a sign with a playful yet politically-relevant question.
Bernie Sanders referred to young people as “agents for change” during his recent trip to Chicago, less than a week before his campaign staff and security at this Boston event effectively silenced student activists’ criticism of his moderately quiet views on Israeli policy and occupation of Palestine.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s campaign manager, said the “rogue” low-level campaign employee has now “been excluded from working on any of our future events.”
This isn’t the presidential candidate’s first run-in with Palestine supporters. Sanders told pro-Palestine constituents to “shut up” a during town hall when challenged about his support for Israel’s onslaught against Gaza during the summer of 2014.
Even though Sanders is described as a progressive, his past says otherwise. He has had a history of voting “yes” on many controversial pieces of legislation. In 1997, Sanders voted in favor of Foreign Operations FY98 Appropriations bill, granting $3 billion in aide for Israel, including $1.8 billion in military assistance; In 2004 he voted in favor of an increase to $2.2 billion for Israel in military assistance.
Sanders’s campaign is receiving more and more criticism as this incident is receiving wider attention. On Boston Students for Justice in Palestine’s Facebook page, the group wrote, “What concerns us most about being unwelcome in this political space on the basis of a sign is not what is says about Bernie’s stance on Palestine, but rather, his team’s refusal to entertain diverse viewpoints. Is this how Bernie is going to answer those, supporters and non-supporters alike, who ask challenging questions about his views? Just silencing them?”