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June 18, 2024

Arizona Democratic Party office opening disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters

Arizona Democratic Party office opening disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters

TUCSON, Ariz. — The opening of a Democratic field office in Arizona featuring high-profile politicians was interrupted Friday afternoon by pro-Palestinian protesters — four separate times.

The third and fourth disruptions occurred while Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democratic Senate hopeful, was speaking onstage. The fourth protester got inches away from the congressman, pointing her finger at him and yelling, “You take money from AIPAC.”

The protester then appeared to fall into a staffer after receiving a push from a woman in the front row, and then was forcibly removed from the venue.

After the commotion died down, Gallego offered an apology.

“We have a job here to do,” said the congressman. “Let’s remember: As Democrats, we do have a big tent. And we all want a great solution, and a solution for the Middle East,” said Gallego, a Marine veteran who deployed to Iraq.

“I’m sorry we’re not there. But you have the party that’s actually looking for something,” he said.

Kirsten Engel, a former state representative running for Congress in Arizona, and Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, were also interrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and former Rep. Gabby Giffords also delivered remarks, but their speeches were not interrupted.

All of the disruptions were drowned out by chants of “four more years” as about 200 Arizonans packed the Democratic field office to celebrate its opening.

Ori Green, 52, an Israeli American demonstrator at the event, told NBC News that protest was the only way she could feel heard.

“I’ve been making phone calls to Kelly’s office and Gallego’s office every single day for months and months and months, begging them to speak up for a permanent cease-fire,” said Green, who told NBC News she served in the Israel Defense Forces.

“I’m an Israeli citizen. I’m Jewish. My mom is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. We care about Israel,” said the bookkeeper from Tucson. “A lot of my family’s there. I love Israel, and what they’re doing is bad for Israel. It is. It’s bad for Israel, and murdering children is never, never, never justifiable.”

Green, like the demonstrator who yelled at Gallego, also cited contributions that he and Kelly received from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, as a reason for her frustration with her lawmakers.

Federal Election Commission campaign finance disclosures do not appear to show AIPAC donations to the campaigns of either Gallego or Kelly this year or last year. Recent campaign donations from the past several weeks, however, are not yet reflected in FEC data.

AIPAC donated $5,000 to Kelly’s campaign in 2022, the year he beat Republican Blake Masters. That same year, AIPAC donated more than $26,000 to Gallego’s campaign, according to FEC records.

Despite Green’s disgruntlement with the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, she still plans on voting for the president in November.

“I will probably be a baby and a wimp and vote safely for Biden, but I won’t feel good about it,” she said of her November ballot box plans.

Hours before the field office event, Biden announced that Israel had proposed a three-part plan that would ultimately lead to a permanent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Asked for comment on the disruptions during the field office opening, a spokesperson for the Biden-Harris campaign in Arizona told NBC News, “The President shares the goal for an end to the violence and a just, lasting peace in the Middle East. He’s working tirelessly to that end.”

Democrats have faced demonstrations from pro-Palestinian protesters in Arizona before. First lady Jill Biden was interrupted several times during remarks in Tucson in March, and Vice President Kamala Harris was interrupted by a demonstrator while on a stop on her “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour roughly a week later. Earlier this month, eight teachers walked out during the first lady’s remarks to the National Education Association in Phoenix in silent protest of the war in Gaza.

Alex Tabet

Alex Tabet is a 2024 NBC News campaign embed.

Megan Lebowitz

Megan Lebowitz is a politics reporter for NBC News.

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