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CT Jewish, Muslim and Arab groups spoke out against hate. Protesters interrupted them

Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks over a small but loud group of protesters with the Connecticut Palestine Solidarity Coalition during a press conference at the State Capitol to condemn threats and violence after a warning from the Department of Homeland Security that Anti-Semitic, Anti-Arab and Islamophobic violence is rising following the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Hartford, Connecticut October 27, 2023.
Joe Amon
/
Connecticut Public
Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks over a small group of protesters with the Connecticut Palestine Solidarity Coalition in Hartford, Connecticut. Demonstrations interrupted a press conference at the state Capitol that was organized to condemn threats and hate after a warning from the Department of Homeland Security that anti-Semitic, anti-Arab and Islamophobic violence is rising during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Oct. 27, 2023.

An effort to unite Jews and Muslims to denounce acts of hate in Connecticut illustrated some of the challenges faced in trying to bring people together as the Israel-Hamas war continues.

Four or five pro-Palestinian demonstrators on Friday repeatedly interrupted a press conference in Hartford, where several faith and community leaders were calling for an end to harassment of members of Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities in Connecticut. Such harassment has increased since Hamas attacked Israel, and Israel responded by bombing Gaza.

The demonstrators shouted questions and chanted while ConnecticutU.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who has voiced his support for Israel, spoke.

“We urged that more humanitarian aid be provided,” Blumenthal began.

“Why do you want to give Israel more money?” shouted protester Eamon Ormseth, who was among the demonstrators who unfurled a banner reading “Stop Funding Genocide” written in the colors of the Palestinian flag.

David Waren with the Greater Hartford Jewish Federation spoke out.

“Let the senator finish his comments! Be quiet!” Waren said.

Ormseth told reporters that the U.S. is “an accomplice to the genocide of the Palestinian people.”

"It is completely unacceptable what the American leadership is doing right now,” he said.

Blumenthal offered to speak with the demonstrators after the press conference.

“It's a free country, fortunately. And folks can show up in front of the Capitol, And I welcome free expression in this country,” Blumenthal said. “We are here on a really serious topic, which is a 6-year-old Palestinian boy killed in Chicago.”

Authorities say the boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, and his family were attacked on Oct. 14 by their landlord because of their Islamic faith and as a response to the escalating Israel-Hamas war. It is being investigated as a hate crime. The Associated Press reports that in Illinois alone in the past week, a suburban man was charged with a hate crime in an assault against two Muslims and an Islamic day school canceled class after receiving threats.

“We need to say ‘no’ to hate crimes wherever they occur,” Blumenthal said.

Muslims are sometimes being harassed for speaking in support of Palestinians, said Farhan Memon, chairperson for the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group.

Farhan Memon with the Council on American-Islamic Relations speaks during a press conference at the State Capitol to condemn threats and violence as Anti-Semitic, Anti-Arab and Islamophobic violence is rising following the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Hartford, Connecticut October 27, 2023.
Joe Amon
/
Connecticut Public
Farhan Memon with the Council on American-Islamic Relations speaks during a press conference at the state Capitol in Hartford, Connecticutto condemn threats and violence. Anti-Semitic, anti-Arab and Islamophobic violence and harassment is rising in the U.S. during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Oct. 27, 2023.

“We are deeply troubled that Muslims in Connecticut are facing a rise of harassment and bullying, because of misguided conflation with the events abroad. Equating American Muslims with foreign terrorist groups is wrong,” Memon said. “We have the same concerns of the loss of innocent lives and livelihoods as all people of conscience.”

Memon said Muslims sometimes face harassment for criticizing Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Criticism of Israel's policies should not automatically be labeled as antisemitism, he said. The Jewish groups in attendance did not directly respond to that comment.

In recent weeks, synagogues across Connecticut have boosted security following various bomb threats. On Oct. 13, a synagogue in West Hartford reported an emailed bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax. That same day, a bomb threat was reported against a synagogue in Ridgefield.

That comes as incidents of antisemitism are on the rise.

“Here in Connecticut, ADL has tracked a 295% increase in reported hate incidents in our own communities, over the same 20-day period as last year,” said Stacey Sobel, the Connecticut Director of the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights organization for Jews and members of other groups.

“These incidents include bomb threats, swastikas, graffiti, verbal harassment, white supremacist propaganda, and students feeling unsafe in schools throughout the state,” Sobel said.

Sobel said some of the recent hate incidents do not cross the line into criminal behavior. But, at the same time, she said some of the incidents are escalating.

“People are afraid,” Sobel said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Matt Dwyer is an editor, reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department. He produces local news during All Things Considered.
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