The Lead

Pennsylvania Capitol police arrest protesters decrying state’s investments in Israel

By: - February 5, 2024 9:06 pm
The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. May 24, 2022. Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).

The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

Pennsylvania Capitol Police said 126 people were arrested and cited for trespassing Monday during a protest against the commonwealth’s investment in Israel bonds.

Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the organizations behind the protest, said Pennsylvania’s investment of public money in bonds issued by the Development Corp. of Israel supports the military operation against Gaza and the expansion of illegal settlements.

The organizations said about 200 protestors chanted and sang on the Capitol rotunda steps and balcony calling on state Treasurer Stacy Garrity to disinvest in the bonds. Video posted on the social media platform, formerly known as Twitter, showed state troopers and Capitol police officers leading protesters away from the rotunda steps in handcuffs.

In several videos, including from Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Gillian McGoldrick, state Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) is seen speaking with a police officer urging police to refrain from arresting protestors.

A spokesperson for Garrity, a Republican, said Pennsylvania has $56.4 million invested in Israel bonds including $20 million invested after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that resulted in more than 1,100 deaths and hundreds of kidnappings.

About $8 million in additional state money is invested in securities of Israeli companies, spokesperson Erik Arneson said. Altogether, the investments represent about 14 hundredths of a percent of the money managed by the Treasury, Arneson said.

Garrity said in a statement that she supports the commonwealth’s long standing investment in Israel bonds.

“State treasurers from both political parties have proudly invested in Israel bonds for more than 30 years. Israel is America’s greatest ally in the Middle East. After the horrific and deadly attacks perpetrated against Israel by the terrorist organization Hamas, I unequivocally stand in solidarity with our ally. Put simply: If Hamas stopped fighting today, there would be no more war. If Israel stopped fighting today, there would be no more Israel,” the statement reads.

Jewish Voice for Peace said the protest was one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in the state Capitol in recent history. In addition to the protest in the rotunda, about 200 people gathered outside the building and marched to the Finance Building where the Treasury has its offices. 

The protest was organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Philly Palestine Coalition and Jewish Voice for Peace-Philadelphia.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.