Anti-war protesters disrupt Franken campaign office in St. Paul, prompt arrests

(Photo by Katie Nelson) Protestors applaud members of the Anti-War Committee as they are escorted into St. Paul Police cars and taken to jail. About a dozen people were arrested in Wednesday’s protest after refusing to leave Sen. Franken’s Campaign Headquarters in St. Paul. 

Phones rang all afternoon at Sen. Al Franken’s campaign headquarters in St. Paul on July 30 as anti-war protestors listed the names of victims killed during recent violence between Israeli military and the militant group Hamas.

“Franken see Gaza!” protesters chanted between reading another set of names. “We need to talk to the Senator. Are you able to get him on the phone with us?”

Outside, more than 250 protesters yell a similar slogan over a loudspeaker while others hold up signs and, at times, bang on the windows looking inside the Sen. Franken’s campaign office off of University Ave.

Wednesday’s protest resulted in about a dozen arrests and was coordinated by the Anti-War Committee of Minnesota, a volunteer organization that opposes “U.S. war and militarism” including U.S. support and financial assistance to Israeli military.

The protest was one of several recent demonstrations by the group aiming to bring attention to the escalating conflict in the Middle East between the Israeli military and the Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas.

Israel and Hamas have been at odds since early July with actions escalating in the past several days. As of July 31, 1,418 Palestinians and 59 Israelis have died since Israel began a military initiative against Hamas on July 8, 2014, according to the New York Times. In addition, 3,754 targets in Gaza have been struck by Israel and 2,848 rockets launched at Israel from Gaza during that time period. Opponents of Israel’s recent aggression argue that too many Palestinian civilians are being killed in the exchanges.

Hunkering down in the Franken campaign office, protesters demanded to speak with the Minnesota lawmaker, who recently signed his name—one of 79—on a U.S. Senate resolution to support “the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.”

The resolution was passed with unanimous consent on July 17, 2014, the same day that Israel began a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“Al Franken is openly supporting terrorism … that is on the verge of genocide … Do you even know what you’re supporting?” a protester asked a group of Franken interns who were phone banking at the headquarters.

“They’re just interns,” said Alexandra Fetissoff, Franken’s Campaign Spokesperson to the protesters. “You’re scaring them.”

The protest became increasingly contentious over the next three hours with one protester purposely blocking a Franken staff member from exiting their office and another group of protestors surrounding a man waving an Israeli flag outside the building.

Among those protesting outside the campaign headquarters was former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley.

Rowley, who is best known for testifying about the FBI’s failure to act on information regarding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks said Franken “always gave reason, at the time, that he was anti-war. He pretended and feigned that he was against war. But since he’s been elected— I’ve got a list of his votes—and literally there are 20 [pro-Israel] votes. He’s just one-sided,” she said.

As a former 2006 candidate for U.S. Congress, Rowley said her views have changed about the Minnesota senator. “I voted for [Franken] but I will not vote for him again. I will not vote for someone who is this flippant about war,” she said.

Sen. Franken is running for re-election this upcoming November against republican Mike McFadden. Franken won his current position by a 312-vote margin in 2008.

As the protest gained strength, it became more and more unclear how many protesters were directly opposing Sen. Franken’s policies, who was involved with the Anti-War Committee of Minnesota or how many people were simply spectators at the event.

Hannan Ayoub, 27, attended Wednesday’s protest with other supporters; some of whom were waving Palestinian flags and matching face paint. Ayoub said she left her home in Palestine when she was two years old, but still has family members living in the Gaza Strip.

The unfolding humanitarian crisis for Palestinian people prompted her to attend the rally, she said.

“[Israel] is calling this self-defense but this isn’t self-dense. Palestinians have nowhere to run and nowhere to go … they have nowhere to hide,” she said. “This is a modern day Holocaust in Palestine.”

Inside, protestors said they would not leave the headquarters until they could speak with the senator.

Eventually, members of the Franken campaign allowed the protestors to speak with the senator for about 10 minutes via a conference call.

“I was a huge fan of yours. I have all your books,” said Tarik Rasouli to the senator toward the end of the call. “My favorite was the Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. I don’t know what happened after you got elected. I don’t know who is in your pockets. I don’t know how you could become one of those lying liars,” he said.

Franken campaign staff hung up the phone before the senator could respond.

Despite meeting the protestors demands, about a dozen or so anti-war activists refused to leave the Franken offices. Eventually, the St. Paul Police Department arrested a handful of protestors and led them to a paddy wagon waiting outside the building.

“I can promise there are a lot of other things I’d rather be doing right now,” one St. Paul Police Officer remarked before beginning the arrests.

Earlier in the day, Fetissoff released a statement from Franken about the pending protest, stating, “Freedom of speech is a first amendment right that Sen. Franken strongly values. We welcome the protestors today and appreciate that they are expressing their views to Sen. Franken and the campaign.”

Fetissoff later said the staff members didn’t know the protest would be so disruptive.

About a dozen protesters were released from jail Thursday afternoon, according to the Anti-War Campaign Twitter account.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated when the U.S. Senate passed the Israeli support resolution. It was passed on July 17.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

  • Thank you. I am pretty sure that this was the only media coverage of this event. Looks like the Twin Cities corporate media have failed us. Again. - by Michael J Cavlan on Fri, 08/01/2014 - 5:42am
  • Thank you to the Daily Planet for covering this protest. - by Mary Katherine Pozzini on Fri, 08/01/2014 - 6:03am
  • "recent violence between Israeli military and the militant group Hamas"??? You clearly have not been following this issue -- the violence is between Israel's bombs and Gazan civilians--you know, those hundreds of dead women and children. Stop sounding like the mainstream media and think for yourself! - by Janet Contursi on Fri, 08/01/2014 - 6:18am
  • Thank you for your coverage of this protest. I also want to hear from Senator Franken why he supports Israeli war. Why is the U.S. resupplying them as they kill babies? - by Cathy McMahon on Thu, 07/31/2014 - 3:58pm
  • The Uptake has just posted a video of the phone conversation with Senator Franken that was lensed by a one of its photo journalists. - by Jeff Strate on Fri, 08/01/2014 - 2:43pm
  • Thank you for treating this subject so diligently Katie. It's a powerful article. Well done! - by Cirien Miriam on Thu, 07/31/2014 - 10:26pm
  • Great job Katie! Well done! We need more voices of the truth. - by Bill Sorem on Fri, 08/01/2014 - 2:02pm
  • Thanks for the coverage!!! you rock! - by Aj Janssen on Fri, 08/01/2014 - 6:54pm
  • This is a great article. The idea of a Jewish homeland is as bad as caliphates and North Korean military elitists. The Jews that made the modern day Israel were dropped there after the end of World War II as an act of both idealism and elitism. The conflicts that have resulted since then have really been inhumane to all citizens. The latest round of this conflict started as two Palestinian kids were killed. Fighter jets went in after Hamas began firing rockets. A group of Jewish people in Gaza made one little boy drink gasoline, poured it on him, and torched him. More rockets, more fighter jets, more rockets, more fighter jets. All led by Ben Netanyahu, whose brother was killed in 1967 and a very spooky foreign affairs advisor. These guys are simple and pure fascists which due great harm to the Israelis who would prefer peace. Men like Ben opened my eyes to the fact that pleasant looking and well-spoken men can be out of their minds -- yet cherished for their candor and smiles. While I grew up in Lowry Hill Neighborhood in my teens, I finished college as a resident of Riverside Plaza Apartment complex, home to thousands of peaceful Muslims. I have out-lived the propaganda machine which allows so many U.S. citizens believe thet their leaders fight a good cause. I invite all peace-loving Israelis and Palestinians to Minnesota where Jews and Muslims live amongst one another in peace. I pray for peace in that region, and await a generational change of the guard in both Israel and Palestine. What constantly happens between those two peoples is a constant reminder of the Holocaust, which took the lives of many of my friends and neighbors' family members. PS: Republican should have been met with an upper case R. - by Barry N Peterson on Sat, 08/02/2014 - 3:20am
  • "The resolution was passed with unanimous consent on August 17, 2014" <- must be incorrect. - by Georgia Jackson on Thu, 07/31/2014 - 6:03pm

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When can we expect these

When can we expect these anti-Israel (not anti-war) protesters to show up at McFadden's campaign office? 

Connie Sullivan