Hundreds cheer Rep. Jayapal’s call for Gaza ceasefire
Lisa Dekker, left, a leader of PSARA, with Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State. | Tim Wheeler/PW

SEATTLE—Katie Garrow, Executive Sec. Treasurer, MLK Labor, speaking to a huge crowd at the Seattle Convention Center on May 3, introduced Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) as a fighter for union-wage infrastructure jobs, childcare, defense of health care for all, and for women’s reproductive rights.

Then Garrow mentioned that Jayapal was among the first to sponsor a bill in Congress for an “immediate ceasefire in Gaza.”

The 450 guests erupted in cheers and stood in a thunderous ovation as the embattled lawmaker walked up to the rostrum to speak. It was Jayapal’s eighth annual Build Our America gathering.

The event brought together Washington State’s strong labor movement, the fight for women’s equality, Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Asian American-Pacific Islanders, and the growing youth movement. Two tables in the banquet hall were taken by members of the non-partisan Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA). Some traveled from the Olympic Peninsula and from other distant communities since Jayapal’s political base is statewide and nationwide.

Paulina Lopez, executive director of the Duwamish River Community Coalition, welcomed the crowd, praising Jayapal for her defense of Native American people. Hamdi Mohamed, the first Somali woman elected to public office in Washington State, praised Jayapal, herself an immigrant from India, for her outspoken defense of immigrants faced with racist hatred and bigotry.

Jayapal presented awards to leaders of One America Vote, Washington Bus, a youth organization focused on get-out-the-vote, and an Asian-Pacific labor organization.

Planned Parenthood’s national CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson, was the featured speaker.

Jayapal said she spent years as a community organizer in Seattle. “That is what we are all about,” she said, “Building an America….of progressive policies, not funded by corporations but by grassroots contributors” determined to “get the money out of politics…to raise wages of workers across our country… a bottom-up economy that serves the needs of the majority of working people….that stands for peace and justice everywhere.”

One of four who refused

When she was first elected to Congress in 2016, Jayapal continued, she was one of four House members who refused corporate campaign contributions. Now, 70 lawmakers refuse this corporate bribery.

And the Progressive Caucus she chairs now has 100 members, she added.This caucus, she said, is pushing through pro-labor, anti-racist, gender equality, pro-immigrant initiatives.

Among the first was the long-stalled Infrastructure repair bill that has created over a million jobs. Another was the biggest “Climate Change” bill ever enacted.

Still another takes on “Big Pharma” to insure affordable insulin and other life-saving medications. Progressives are now pushing for legislation that will provide affordable child care for all workers.

Jayapal also spoke about the “growing urgent demand for an immediate ceasefire, opposing the horrific war in Gaza.” She added, “A ceasefire is the only way we can get desperately needed aid to the people of Gaza…the only way we will win the release of all the hostages, get what we all want, a settlement so that Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in security and self-determination.” Again, the crowd broke into cheers and applause.

She blasted “violent anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish youth” by extreme war hawks and police when these youth joined protests against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s war on Gaza.

The Republicans “are prepared to spend $100 million to defeat progressives,” she charged, and “because of my sponsorship of a ceasefire resolution, I am on the target list.”

Jayapal revealed that the far-right is “targeting my sister” Susheela Jayapal, a candidate for the U.S. Congress in Portland, Oregon. “They can’t stand the prospect of another Jayapal, double-trouble,” she quipped to laughter from the crowd.

The American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) has been exposed by the online Intercept, secretly pouring $1.7 million into the campaign coffers of Oregon State Representative Maxine Dexter to defeat Susheela Jayapal who is currently serving on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson told the story of a pregnant woman in desperate need of an abortion in a state where abortions are banned. Enemies of choice are scheming to outlaw abortions even if a pregnant woman will die without one. Seeking abortions is an “act of resistance” under these terrorist conditions, Johnson said.

The most vulnerable are low-income, single women of color. They are victims, she charged, of “laws that codify inequality.”

“This a battle for the future,” she continued. “Surrender is when tyranny thrives. It is our job to fight against this injustice. We need a normal, expansive right to reproductive freedom. Anyone who wants or needs an abortion should be able to get one. Abortion pills in our medicine cabinets alongside the Tylenol.”

The crowd gave Johnson a standing ovation.

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Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler has written over 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World, and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper.  His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view. After residing in Baltimore for many years, Tim now lives in Sequim, Wash.