Jewish community members blocked all entrances to Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s office in Northeast Portland again Tuesday, in hopes of pressuring him to call for a cease-fire in Gaza. The action followed a similar sit-in two weeks prior.

By the end of the day, with help from Qatari officials, a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas was agreed upon. The truce will last four days and will include the release of 50 hostages in Gaza held by Hamas, and 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails. 

While protesters praised Senator Jeff Merkley’s call for a cease-fire the day prior, they still had a bone to pick with Blumenauer. 

In a statement issued November 17, Blumenauer called for an end to the violence in Gaza, but suggested there were only semantic differences between a cease-fire and a humanitarian pause. Many of Blumenauer’s constituents took offense, given the number of civilians still being killed in Gaza, despite humanitarian pauses. The Oregon congressman, who recently announced he will not seek reelection, had not signed onto H. Res. 786, the cease-fire resolution in the House. 

While Blumenauer’s statement was seen as a step in the right direction, Jewish residents noted it lacked any real action. They also found the wording of his statement disturbing. “Saying that there is only a semantic difference between a humanitarian pause and a ceasefire is disrespectful to Palestinians who have nowhere to go during that humanitarian pause,” said Sabrina Solomon, a media liaison with the protest. “Israel's government is committing war crimes and I will not let it happen with my tax dollars or in my name. This is not keeping Jewish people safe.”

Organizers of protest near Congressman Earl Blumenauer's
office in Portland address crowds Tuesday, November 21. kevin foster

With over 14,000 reported deaths in Gaza, and Blumenauer’s past work on the water crisis in the region, protesters were in disbelief at the congressman’s responses. “I am deeply disappointed with Blumenauer's statement,” said Rav Fora, an independent Rabbi attending the protest. “I don't know how someone could not be angry when they find out what's going on.” Fora cited a “deep generational divide in the Jewish community” over Israel’s military response, saying politicians like Blumenauer “are a part of changing that narrative and having a broader conversation and a broader coalition around what liberation means.”

By contrast, on Monday, Sen. Merkley specifically called for a cease-fire, the release of all hostages, and a massive influx of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Merkley noted Israel had unwavering support from the United States following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas. 

“I and others defended Israel’s right to respond with a campaign targeted at destroying Hamas. But the way that Israel has conducted that campaign matters and has been deeply disturbing for me and millions of others,” Merkley stated, noting many civilians in Gaza face the possibility of starvation while enduring a fierce bombing campaign from Israel Defense Forces.

Protesters seemed pleasantly surprised by Merkley’s stance, calling it courageous. “He is someone who is clearly listening to what his constituents are telling him,” said Zia Laboff, the organizer of Tuesday's protest outside Blumenauer’s office. “I applaud his courage to be the first one to speak up in Oregon, and I invite him to further those actions and introduce a bill to the Senate.”

The goal of the protest was to fully shut down the congressman’s office, causing enough of a disturbance to force his hand into a stronger stance. “For so many people, this is all they can think about,” Laboff said. “They're worried about their families every moment, and to just let our government operate as usual, feels incredibly unjust.” 

Some workers from the federal buildings in Northeast grew frustrated with protesters blocking the entrances. A few arguments broke out, but nothing got physical beyond one man knocking down a dove sign, a symbol for peace. 

Protesters told the workers to take it up with Blumenauer. They also noted how many federal programs are underfunded, while the United States sends billions of dollars in military aid to Israel each year. Following Hamas’ October 7 attack, Biden pledged to send over $14 billion to aid Israel’s war in Gaza.

Protesters remained in solidarity, blocking the entrances until 5 pm. This strategy came in response to a lack of action from Blumenauer after the group’s sit-in protest on November 8.

Another Oregon Congressional leader, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, released a statement Tuesday, calling for a bilateral humanitarian pause or ceasefire. Bonamici’s statement stopped short of the resolute call for a cease-fire that Merkley issued. 

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden has stayed relatively silent, except for a social media post denouncing antisemitism on the anniversary of a deadly terrorist attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.

Tuesday’s action followed a series of recent protests surrounding the Israel/Hamas war, including one that targeted aviation manufacturer Boeing, over its sale of weapons to Israel.