Protesters interrupt anti-hate speech event at state Capitol
An event denouncing hate speech at the state Capitol turned into a confrontation on Friday. Protesters shouted down Sen. Richard Blumenthal, accusing the Democrat of supporting "genocide" in the Israel-Hamas war.
"LET THE SENATOR FINISH"
The news conference was meant to be a show of unity, with Connecticut's Jewish and Muslim leaders jointly calling for an end to hate incidents sparked by the conflict.
"The numbers are soaring," Blumenthal said. "A 400% increase in antisemitic incidents. Similar kinds of increases in anti-Muslim, anti-Arab."
But when Blumenthal took questions, members of the Connecticut Palestine Solidarity Coalition unfurled a large flag, chanting, "Stop funding genocide!"
As the senator attempted to respond to the group, protesters shouted over him.
"Let the senator finish his comments," snapped David Waren, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. "Be quiet!"
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR RAMPING UP
The protest came as the Israel-Hamas war escalated on Friday.
The Israeli Defense Forces announced they are "expanding" ground operations, in advance of an all-out invasion of the Gaza Strip. Israel has vowed to crush the ruling Hamas militant group after its bloody incursion in southern Israel three weeks ago.
On Friday, Israeli air strikes cut off all nearly all phone and internet access in the Gaza Strip. Meantime, Israel accused Hamas of a rocket attack on a Tel Aviv apartment building.
The U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution Friday calling for a "humanitarian truce" amid a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
SPIKE IN HATE SPEECH
As the war ramps up, tensions are rising here in Connecticut.
The Anti-Defamation League reports a 295% jump in hate incidents-just in Connecticut-since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. Nationwide, the Secure Community Network reports 94 incidents on college campuses.
Stacey Sobel, head of the Connecticut ADL, held up a flier circulating at the University of Connecticut.
"This is an example of misinformation that's been posted and spread at UConn campus, that is spreading fear and hate," she told reporters.
Sobel said it goes beyond hate speech.
"These incidents include bomb threats, swastikas, graffiti, verbal harassment, white supremacist propaganda," she said.
The Islamic community is experiencing violence too, including the murder a 6-year-old boy outside Chicago on Oct. 14.
"We're hearing from Muslims who are being harassed at both their place of work and at schools for speaking out against the treatment of Palestinians," said Farhan Memon, chair of the Connecticut Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). "The one-sided rhetoric about Israel in the media and by our politicians that fails to recognize the humanity of Palestinians exacerbates the situation."
Protesters took aim at Blumenthal's support for Israel.
Blumenthal and nine other senators recently visited the region, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. On Friday, Blumenthal insisted that he's advocating for Palestinians, too.
"We urged that more humanitarian aid be provided – fuel, food, water, electricity," he said.
Blumenthal said he is also urging Congress to approve more money for synagogue and mosque security, preferably in a proposed $100 billion aid package for Israel and Gaza.