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Pro-Palestinian protesters confront Gov. Lamont, but will it have an impact?

Political analysts expect more protests but predict they are unlikely to have a major impact.

John Craven and CNN

May 29, 2024, 4:04 PM

Updated 22 days ago


Pro-Palestinian protesters shouted down Gov. Ned Lamont during a speech Wednesday morning. It’s just the latest demonstration aimed at state – and even local – leaders in Connecticut.
Political analysts expect more protests but predict they are unlikely to have a major impact.
Lamont was just moments into a speech at the first-ever Connecticut Service Symposium in West Hartford when protesters confronted him, demanding a cease-fire in Gaza.
The confrontation comes just days after an Israeli airstrike killed more than 45 Palestinian civilians at a refugee camp. At least 940,000 people have been displaced from Rafah in the past three weeks as a result of “the intensification of hostilities and issuance of evacuation orders” by Israeli forces, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
In the U.S., the conflict has also deeply divided Democrats.
Lamont said he sympathizes with protesters’ cause but that a community service event was not the time or place to demonstrate.
“If you stand up in anger – and rudely – you do a disservice to a cause that has some justice to it,” Lamont told the group. “I’ll tell you one thing. I think I’m probably the only person in this room that's been in Gaza, worked in Gaza, worked on behalf of those kids in Gaza.”
A larger protest was planned for Wednesday evening outside the state Capitol.
Gaza may be across the globe, but Connecticut leaders are facing increased pressure to take a stand on the war.
In February, protesters interrupted Lamont’s State of the State Speech, chanting, “Cease-fire now!”
Last October, a group confronted Sen. Richard Blumenthal at a Jewish-Muslim unity event in Hartford. Blumenthal insisted that he was advocating for Palestinians, too.
"We urged that more humanitarian aid be provided – fuel, food, water, electricity," he said.
At Wednesday’s event, protesters demanded that Lamont pull state money out of Israel.
“We can divest all of Connecticut’s money in Israel,” they said.
But that’s easier said than done.
Connecticut and Israel have close economic ties. Lamont led a trade delegation there two years ago, hoping to lure startups from neighboring states.
Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public venture capital arm, has invested tens of millions of dollars in Israeli companies – especially in the rapidly growing financial tech, biotech, medical, food and AgTech industries.
“It’s a tech hub,” Connecticut Innovations CEO Matt McCooe said in 2022. “A lot of the biggest companies in the world – their most productive R&D, from Intel to Microsoft, Google – a lot of their most productive R&D is happening over there in Israel.”
Connecticut is also home to three major military contractors – Pratt and Whitney, Sikorsky and Electric Boat – which indirectly employ 130,000 people.
Political analysts said Connecticut is unlikely to divest from Israel – and may not even be able to.
“I think it’s very hard,” said Dr. Gary Rose, with Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. “When you invest in companies, you can’t simply terminate your association. It takes a long time, and it takes some legislation in some cases.”
Public demonstrations have worked before, at least at public colleges. In 1986, protesters forced University of Connecticut trustees to sell off investments in Apartheid-era South Africa.
Rose expects to see protesters target more Connecticut leaders – even in smaller towns.
“We’re going to see – probably even at local, you know – in local town meetings, I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said. “And local council meetings.”
But he doesn’t expect Gaza to be a major issue in state and local elections, with inflation dominating voters’ concerns. The one exception could be the hotly contested 5th Congressional District race in northwestern Connecticut. Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes is once again facing a challenge from Republican George Logan, who is already hammering her on the issue.

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