As a health care researcher specializing in traumatic injury, I see hospital patients with burns, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries. Over the last eight months, I have felt so much moral horror and sadness that US bombs, funded by my tax dollars, are dropping on Palestinians and causing these very injuries. More than one thousand children have lost limbs. Fathers have suffered traumatic brain injuries from bombs exploding and buildings collapsing. Mothers have burns over their entire body. It is too much to witness. 

I feel powerlessness and cognitive dissonance; while I am at work caring for patients and researching how to prevent traumatic injuries, US tax dollars and weapons are causing those very same traumatic injuries in Palestine. The scale of traumatic injury and disability resulting from US weapons and funds to Israel is overwhelming, alongside the fact that the Israeli military has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians in what the International Criminal Court calls a “plausible” case of genocide. 

Many people, including myself, feel powerless to curb the US’s role in facilitating violence in Palestine. We sign petitions. We march in the streets. We block roads. We start encampments on university campuses. We call our senators. Nothing changes. The weapons and money keep flowing. 

I assume we’re used to this–political representatives acting in ways we don’t like, or even in ways we deplore. That is not new. However, the next stop doesn’t have to be political apathy. Instead, it is an invitation to build collective power. You can start small. Small actions can accumulate and motivate others; each small individual or group action is us running our section of the relay, passing the baton to the next person or group. Maybe this small action will motivate that next person to join a protest, learn more about the issues, and get active. 

That’s why on Saturday, June 1, 2024, I disrupted Vice President Kamala Harris’s Seattle fundraiser by standing up in the middle of the event and asking her, “When will you stop sending weapons to Israel?” 

I participated in this disruption for four reasons. First, Vice President Harris is second in command below the President. Wherever she goes, we need to remind her that many US voters are horrified by US weapons and funds facilitating violence in Palestine. Currently, 70% of likely voters support a permanent ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza, and the plurality think we should decrease military aid to Israel. 

Second, I hoped my question would continue shining a light on the Biden administration’s equivocations about when they will stop sending weapons to Israel. For example, the Israeli military recently dropped US-made, Boeing bombs on a refugee camp in Rafah. The “tent massacre” killed 45 people and injured more than 200. In early May, President Biden said, “If they [Israeli military] go into Rafah, I’m not going to be supplying the weapons.” However, the Biden administration is now backpedaling and claiming that the current invasion into Rafah is a “limited” operation, not an “all-out assault.” I believe the Biden administration is posturing and has no intent of stopping military funds or weapons shipments to Israel. 

Third, I wondered if Vice President Harris would say something on the record. Maybe something concrete that would get attention and force more internal conflict or dialogue within the Biden administration. But, alas, as a seasoned politician, she just said, “Thank you, I am speaking now.” 

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Finally, I knew that disrupting this speech was not on its own going to change Vice President Harris’s views or behavior in relation to the violence in Palestine. But I thought that maybe you would change. Vice President Harris was the main event, and you were the audience. We captured a short video of the disruption, hoping it would get a few thousand views. The  Instagram video reached ~224,000 accounts and was viewed ~469,000 times. I was shocked. More importantly, I felt affirmed–that many people saw our action, which means they are thinking about what’s happening in Palestine. Maybe this action was the baton pass that someone else needed. 

And to be clear, I am not a seasoned activist. You could do this. You could do this, and we did this (another person participated in the disruption with me) because we did it as a team. Our team spent hours prepping: talking through the plan, assessing risks, studying similar events in other parts of the country, practicing getting booed (because we expected that from other attendees), preparing press releases, preparing jail support in the unlikely event we were arrested, and more. This was not an impulsive solo event. I am emphasizing this because there is a role for everyone. Consider this your invitation. It is only through collective action and organizing that we can build the world we want and stop the violence perpetrated by our elected representatives. 

Some voters are concerned that protesting the Biden administration like we did will increase the likelihood of a Trump presidency: younger voters in swing states may be swayed not to vote for Biden, leading to a Trump presidency, which would be worse for US civil rights and for Palestinians. My response: I hear and understand the very real fear of another Trump presidency. I am not naive about that risk, AND we still need to speak out when the current US administration is facilitating unthinkable violence in Palestine, or any country. 

Additionally, if the Biden administration loses the 2024 election, it will be because the Democratic party failed to deliver policies and actions that voters wanted. Let’s not blame progressives for the Democratic party’s losses. If the Democratic party can’t win elections, it’s because they’re not doing a good job listening to voters. For instance, the violence in Palestine is not a fringe progressive issue. In the presidential primary, hundreds of thousands of Democrats—including those in key swing states like Michigan—voted “undecided” or “uncommitted” to protest the Biden administration’s perpetuation of the violence in Palestine. These “uncommitted” votes tried to incentivize behavior-change from Biden. Biden didn’t change his behavior. I don’t know how many of those “uncommitted” voters will vote for Biden in the general election. My sense is that some might not if the Biden administration keeps facilitating the violence in Palestine.

But when I took a deep breath and stood up from my seat in the decadent ballroom at Vice President Harris’s fundraiser, I hoped that my action would be one small drop in a growing stream of collective action. 

Vice President Harris and President Biden, you could stop the flow of weapons and funds to Israel right now. You have the ultimate lever for ending this genocide in Palestine. Stop the flow of weapons now. 

Arin Flaster is a health care researcher focusing on mental health and traumatic injury. Arin has worked in health care research for 10 years and has been involved in research on childhood/adolescent trauma, spinal cord injury, chronic pain, health services, and other long-term health conditions. Arin has lived in Seattle for 10 years.