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Protesters calling for Gaza cease-fire interrupt Tim Kaine rally in Charlottesville

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s reelection rally in Charlottesville on Thursday was disrupted by protesters calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Multiple people, young and old, stood up in the middle of the Virginia Democrat’s speech at the CODE Building in downtown Charlottesville, interrupting it for two minutes before they were escorted out the door.

“Where is your condemnation? Where is the cease-fire? What about standing up for Palestinian children, the 14,000 that have died?” shouted one woman, the first of several to rise during a campaign event publicizing Kaine’s run for a third term in the U.S. Senate.

Standing at the podium, Kaine offered to speak with the protesters after the event.

Charlottesville is just one of many stops on Kaine’s planned campaign tour that launched Tuesday in Richmond and has already twice been interrupted by protesters demanding a cease-fire in Israel’s ongoing war against Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Upcoming stops in Alexandria, Blacksburg and Newport News present similar opportunities for similar interruptions.

The protests are evidence of fractures in the Democratic base. There are growing concerns that many of the voters Democrats rely on will withhold their votes come November because of the United States’ response, or lack thereof, to a war that has killed roughly 33,000 people — disproportionately Palestinian — since Hamas’ deadly surprise attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 of last year. Hamas still holds more than 100 hostages — disproportionately Israeli — that it captured on Oct. 7.

Could that outrage hurt Kaine and Democratic Party leader President Biden at the ballot box?

“The situation in Gaza is so much more important than my election,” Kaine told The Daily Progress. “I don’t worry about Gaza because of my election. I worry about Gaza because I want Israel and Palestine to live peacefully side by side and I don’t want civilians to suffer. That is a thousand times more important than my election.”

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 strike, Israel has laid siege to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a 141-square-mile territory where almost half of the population is under the age of 18. Of the estimated 33,000 killed in the war, the United Nations has reported that women and children make up 70%. Children, specifically, account for more than 13,000 deaths, according to the UN. With both an Israeli and Egyptian blockade in effect and limited assistance from Arab neighbors, international agencies say famine in Gaza is “imminent.”

In February, Kaine and other Democratic senators wrote Biden a letter voicing their “urgent support for your Administration’s ongoing diplomatic efforts” to secure a release of hostages in tandem with a cease-fire. He was also among those who introduced a Senate resolution calling for the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. More recently, Kaine urged Biden to send only defensive weaponry to Israel, prioritizing them over “offensive weapons that risk significant harm to civilians and a further deepening of the Gaza crisis.”

On Thursday, Kaine said that he wants both a cease-fire and a hostage release, saying one would not work without the other.

“We’ve been tantalizingly close, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

After Oct. 7 but before Israel launched its offensive, Kaine met with Israeli officials, including its U.S. ambassador.

“The world is going to be watching to see how you do the humanitarian aid because they know Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas that celebrated that attack and says they’ll do it again,” Kaine recalled saying. “But Gaza isn’t Hamas. Palestinians aren’t Hamas. They’re under the thumb of Hamas.”

Since then, Kaine has been “dissatisfied” with Israel’s humanitarian aid, saying the U.S. needs “much more dramatic cooperation” from Israel to get aid to civilians.

He noted that U.S. troops from Fort Eustis in Newport News have been deployed to build a pier in the eastern Mediterranean so the U.S. can deliver more aid.

“We need to up the pace of it, but we need Israel to be much more cooperative and we just need to push and push until we get some satisfaction,” he said.

For some voters, that may not be enough.

Charlie Martinez was among the protesters who stood during Kaine’s speech. He told The Daily Progress he did not coordinate with other protesters in the crowd, and wanted to remain respectful so that he would have the opportunity to speak with Kaine after the event. Kaine did give him time, which Martinez thanked him for, although he was not satisfied with the senator’s response.

Martinez pointed to the Senate’s recently passed $1.2 trillion spending plan that includes an annual U.S. security commitment of $3.3 billion for Israel. According to Martinez, Kaine told him that there are “other avenues” to protect Gazans besides cutting off funding for Israel.

“I believe the senator’s heart is in the right place. I believe he wants to do the right thing,” Martinez said. “I believe he’s tied into the special interests and all the interests involved. And sadly, he can’t vote against the problem. The only way to stop the problem is to turn off the tap of weapons and money that’s going to Israel.”

“You can’t say, ‘I want you to stop killing people but here’s some more bullets,’” Martinez said.

The same day as Kaine’s Charlottesville visit, Biden appeared to escalate his rhetoric on the matter. In a White House readout of a call Biden had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden called Israel’s recent bombing of an aid convoy ran by charity group World Central Kitchen “unacceptable” and said that an immediate cease-fire is “essential.”

That World Central Kitchen bombing killed seven aid workers. Roughly 200 aid workers have been killed since Oct. 7, according to the UN.

In the call between the two leaders, Biden said Israel must “implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.”

“He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps,” according to the White House.

As of the moment, Martinez is planning to either not vote or vote for a third-party candidate. One way Democrats could sway him is by cutting off U.S. funding to Israel.

“Then maybe I would consider it. But it has to happen now,” he said. “Look how many kids have died already. Kids die all over the world, and we can’t be responsible for all of it. But this we are directly responsible for. I am, you are, he is, all of us are, because we pay for it.”

Unlike Republicans, the war puts Democrats in a difficult political position, according to Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Biden’s Republican rival, former President Donald Trump, does not face the same pushback from his own party, despite supporting similar measures or showing no interest in supporting any measures whatsoever.

“Gaza divides Democrats in way that doesn’t divide Republicans,” Kondik told The Daily Progress. “Trump gave an interview this morning and, as he often does, danced around what he’s been saying over Israel. Republicans aren’t protesting him on his stance.”

He sees Biden and other prominent Democrats softening on their support for Israel. If they fully withdraw support, however, that could upset other sections of the Democratic coalition. In the meantime, leading Democrats such as Kaine are likely to continue facing backlash from their own supporters who demand a cease-fire.

“The best thing you could say for Democrats is there is time on all this. Time to rebuild the base, and to hope that this is not a driving issue that hurts them in September, October and November,” Kondik said.

For those who have been demanding a cease-fire for months, their outrage is unlikely to dissipate come Election Day unless there is a significant change in the U.S. government’s approach to Israel. Biden, Kaine and others might see that dissatisfaction in vote totals.

“This is the most important thing happening right now,” Martinez said. “Every day I call his office or Sen. Mark Warner’s office or congressman Bob Good’s office and explain to them that it’s wrong to kill children. Stop voting for money that is going to kill children.”

Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire just this past Monday. The matter divided Council and had to be brought to a vote twice before passing. Supporters of the resolution say their goal is to bring more pressure on legislators such as Kaine to broker an end to the violence in Gaza.


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