Activists Protest Rep. Joe Kennedy’s Support for Anti-BDS Legislation that Punishes Free Speech

Sept 28 rally at Rep. Kennedy's Newton office Sept 28 rally at Rep. Kennedy's Newton office

How they did it in CD4:

With your help and that of our allies, last year we succeeded in blocking a stealth anti-BDS bill attack on free speech in the Massachusetts legislature.

But the Federal Israel Anti-Boycott Act (IABA)HR 1967, is still alive and could pass before the end of this Congress, which reconvenes next month after the elections.

HR 1697 has 292 House cosponsors – including just two from Massachusetts: Rep. Joe Kennedy(CD4) and Rep. Richard Neal (CD1).  It’s companion Senate bill S.720 has 57 co-sponsors, including neither of the two Mass Senators; Sen. Warren has expressed her opposition to the bill, while Sen. Markey has declined to state a position. In June, Rep. Bill Keating (CD9) joined a unanimous vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee to advance the bill for a full floor expedited vote “under suspension of the rules.”

Activists in Kennedy’s district decided to ramp up the pressure.  The flyer they used was: Why is Rep. Kennedy Attacking our Free Speech Rights?

MAPA’s Susan Nicholson reports:

Frustrated by Rep. Kennedy’s unwillingness to engage in a sustained discussion of this unconstitutional bill, activists from MAPA, Jewish Voice for Peace, Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, and Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East staged a two hour demonstration in front of Kennedy’s Newton office on September 28th.

The need for a meeting became obvious when Kennedy responded to a constituent asking why he supported the IABA by sending her a link to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) website. Kennedy’s response was particularly disappointing as activists had previously handed him a copy of an ACLU letter describing the bill as “an unconstitutional infringement of core political speech rights.” Demonstrators carried signs focusing on the free speech issue and handed out flyers reminding Kennedy that the legal experts on the First Amendment are with the ACLU, not AIPAC.

At one point during the demonstration activists went into Kennedy’s office to reiterate their request for a face-to-face meeting with him. Shortly after the demonstration, JVP members Mark Golden and Jill Charney, who over several months had taken the lead in pursuing a meeting, emailed a picture of the demonstration, together with the flyer, to Kennedy’s foreign policy aide. Later that same day, they were informed that a meeting with Kennedy would indeed be set up, which has now been scheduled for mid-November. In the meantime, a letter by MAPA demonstrator Susan Nicholson and former ACLUM lawyer Sarah Wunsch, criticizing Kennedy’s position on the IABA, was published in the Newton and Brookline Tabs.

Our protest appears to have led to the desired result. The hope now is for a productive discussion that will motivate Kennedy to reconsider his co-sponsorship of this bill.

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Please take action to make sure that your Member of Congress commits to vote against HR 1967 if it comes to the floor before the end of this session. (Ask Kennedy and Neal to drop their cosponsorship, and ask Rep. Keating to reconsider his support for the bill.)

Katherine Clark

  (202) 225-2836

Stephen Lynch

  (202) 225-8273

Jim McGovern

  (202) 225-6101

Niki Tsongas

  (202) 225-3411

Mike Capuano

 (202) 225-5111

William Keating

  (202) 225-3111

Joe Kennedy

  (202) 225-5931

Seth Moulton

  (202) 225-8020

Richard Neal

  (202) 225-5601

 

And don’t forget to tell Senator Markey (202-224-2742)  to oppose the companion bill S.720 and to thank Senator Warren (202-224-4543) for doing so.