Toward the end of his opening statement, Blinken drifted away from his prepared script to address the protesters directly…reports Asian Lite News
Multiple anti-war protesters demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip repeatedly interrupted a US Senate hearing held on the administration’s massive budget request for funding Israel and Ukraine amid the ongoing wars in the two nations.
The Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday, attended by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as witnesses giving testimonies, was interrupted at least six times by the anti-war protesters, who called for an end to the brutality and condemned the US for “aiding the massacre”, reports Xinhua news agency
Minutes into Blinken’s opening remarks, a man in the audience was heard shouting “ceasefire now”. “save the children of Gaza” and “Where is your pride, America?” before he was escorted out of the room by Capitol Police.
Shortly after, Blinken was again cut off mid-speech, as several protesters were heard yelling at him and committee members.
“Ceasefire now!” they said. “Let Gaza live!”
In addition to those expressing their anger verbally, some other protesters in the audience raised their red-stained hands in the air, indicating that President Joe Biden’s administration had blood on its hands as it reiterated time and again its solidarity with Israel.
“The US is supporting a brutal massacre,” a female protester was heard lashing out during one of the disruptions.
“Not one senator is calling for a ceasefire! Shame on you all! Ceasefire now. Stop funding this brutal massacre,” she continued even when forced by the police to leave the room.
Blinken resumed his testimony each time one protester was evicted, only to be interrupted again by the ensuing protests.
He said the funding, totaling $106 billion, will support Israel and Ukraine in their respective wars with the Hamas and Russia; ameliorate the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza; help Washington outcompete its strategic rivals; and strengthen the protection of Americans’ security at home.
Toward the end of his opening statement, Blinken drifted away from his prepared script to address the protesters directly.
“I also hear very much the passions expressed in this room and outside this room,” the Secretary said, adding while the Biden administration is “determined” to see the sufferings of Gazans end, it is nonetheless “imperative” for the US to “resolutely” stand up with allies and partners.
Austin, who spoke from the perspective of the Pentagon following Blinken’s speech, said that by submitting the urgent supplemental budget request, the administration is asking Congress to “help fund America’s national security needs, stand by our partners, and invest in our defense industrial base”.
At one point during the question-and-answer session with the senators, Blinken said now is not the time to enforce a ceasefire, for doing so would play into the hands of Hamas, enabling them to “potentially repeat” the attacks on innocent Israeli civilians on October 7.
At the hearing, B linken and Austin are lobbied for lawmakers to support President Biden’s national security package, which also includes $61.4 billion for Ukraine’s defence; $9.2 billion for humanitarian assistance; $2 billiom for Indo-Pacific security; and $10.9 billion for southern border security and migrant issues.