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VP Kamala Harris’ quiet stops in Bay Area met with Gaza ceasefire protests

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In a brief visit Wednesday to the city where she was born, Vice President Kamala Harris was greeted in Oakland by jeers and boos from pro-Palestinian protesters calling for a permanent ceasefire on the Gaza Strip and an end to U.S. aid for Israel.

The chorus of disdain rained down on Harris’ motorcade as it arrived to a sold-out private fundraising event in the Oakland Hills hosted by an executive at Palantir Technologies, a software company that provides intelligence for military defense.

Later that day, Harris visited Manny’s Cafe, a San Francisco bar that has doubled as a venue for political speaking events, and where pro-Palestinian protesters were already gathered to issue a similar demand.

The event was briefly interrupted when an attendee, according to pool reports from Wednesday’s events, began shouting references to a “genocide” against Palestinians. The person was taken away by security as the gathered crowd chanted, in support of Harris, “Four more years!”

Harris then took a moment to address the subject, saying, “What we’ve seen in Gaza is far too many innocent civilians being killed (and) humanitarian aid being denied in many cases.”

“The president and I have been very clear: This war must end, we need a ceasefire, we need the hostages out, we need aid going in and we need to be committed to a two-state solution,” the vice president continued. The crowd erupted in applause.

Still, the demonstrations — totaling several hundred participants between the two cities — were the latest sign that many in the Bay Area’s most progressive corners have soured on Harris and President Joe Biden over the administration’s handling of Israel’s eight-month assault in Gaza.

“Kamala Harris, you’re a terrorist!” the protesters in Oakland bluntly declared from the sidewalk opposite the Claremont neighborhood street, which was blocked off by police for the fundraising event.

One sign read, “Kamala, you are not welcome in your hometown while you are destroying others.” Another: “Kamala you’ve become a monster.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters rally on Broadway and Ocean View Drive as Vice-President Kamala Harris makes a campaign stop at a private residence in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

Tickets to the fundraiser — hosted by Amit Jain, the Palantir executive, and Smita Trivedi, a San Francisco State University business professor — went from $5,000 to $25,000 for a couple, according to pool reports. About 60 guests were in attendance.

Per pool reports, Harris said at one point, referring to recent trips she has made, that “people around the globe fully understand the consequences of this election to their own countries, much less to us.” A mention of Berkeley, her formal hometown, was met with cheers from the attendees.

Outside, in 80-degree weather, frustration was evident among the demonstrators. Israel’s attack in Gaza has killed at least 36,000 people and led to widespread starvation, with airstrikes in recent days killing dozens in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The military assault began as retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that killed 1,200 people and led to the capture of nearly 250 hostages, of whom 80 are still believed to be alive and held captive. Four hostages were confirmed dead this week, the Israeli military told the Associated Press.

Biden has proposed a three-stage ceasefire premised on the notion that Hamas has already been sufficiently depleted in Israel’s assault. But protesters Wednesday said the administration’s continued aid to Israel has left Biden and Harris with “blood on your hands.”

“She has the audacity to believe she can come here to our Bay Area to fundraise and campaign quietly,” Wassim Hage, a representative for the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, said at the demonstration to cries of outrage.

“Palestine will be free in our lifetimes,” Hage promised his fellow protesters.

The mood was similar in San Francisco’s Mission District, where police apprehended a woman who resisted being pushed back with the rest of the crowd a half-block down from Manny’s Cafe, where Harris was set to speak. It’s unclear if she was arrested.

“I’m Jewish; my family had one member survive in Germany and dozens were killed, so I’m familiar with genocide,” said 79-year-old protester Catherine Cusic. “This is really genocide with our money.”

The bar and music venue, owned by local Democratic fundraiser Manny Yekutiel, has hosted several events in which Yekutiel interviewed Bay Area politicians in front of an audience.

Last month, an Instagram post by the venue announcing the coming Harris event was filled with comments accusing Yekutiel of ignoring Israel’s “genocide” against Palestinians.

The lasting violence in Gaza has threatened to divide progressives in the upcoming elections. But in Oakland, some protesters Wednesday said moderate liberal politics had left its share of scars in the Bay Area long before Oct. 7.

“Kamala Harris, you do not represent us,” said Afraz Khan of the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, adding, in reference to her past record as a prosecutor, that “we will continue to agitate… until you are locked up, the way you locked up Black and Brown people in this state of California.”

The Associated Press and staff writer Ethan Varian contributed reporting to this story. 

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