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Pro-Palestine protesters crash U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s campaign event

Larsen said his campaign is focusing on issues most salient to the district

Michael Jacobson, middle, yells in the face of Congressman Rick Larsen Tuesday, June 18 as he attempts to speak with Todd Lagestee, while Pinky Vargas attempts to separate them during an event supporting Larsen's reelection at the Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro. (Eric Becker/Cascadia Daily News)
By Isaac Stone Simonelli Enterprise/Investigations Reporter

Pro-Palestine protesters forced the premature wrapup of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s campaign event in downtown Bellingham on Tuesday, June 18 after shouting the congressman out of the event space.

The event, part of a series kicking off Larsen’s 2024 campaign, got underway with protestors outside Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro waving Palestinian flags and shouting chants, such as “Larsen, Larsen, you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide.”

The longtime Democratic congressman stayed on the far side of the bistro’s garden for the private event, focused on the 25–30 constituents who were formally attending the fundraiser. After about 20 minutes, several protestors with name tags who appeared to have RSVPed for the event began yelling at Larsen, denouncing his stance and vote to support Israel.

Congressman Rick Larsen speaks to the crowd. (Eric Becker/Cascadia Daily News)

In April, Larsen voted in support of the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, which provided $13 billion to replenish U.S. stocks of equipment and weapons sent to Israel’s military, support U.S. operations in the region and fund Israel’s missile defense systems. The bill also included $9.15 billion for humanitarian assistance in Gaza and worldwide.

“I have heard from my constituents, and I share their frustration that Israel’s legitimate response to the Oct. 7 attacks has enveloped all of Gaza in suffering, instead of being narrowly focused on defeating Hamas,” Larsen stated after voting for the Act, which passed the House by a vote of 366 to 58.

To protester Ariel Chilton, the money tagged for humanitarian assistance feels performative in the face of the billions of dollars of weapons being sent to Israel.

Pro-Palestine protester Ariel Chilton sits down for an interview at Boundary Bay Bistro on June 18. Chilton was among the protestors who shouted prepared statements at U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen during his campaign event. She demanded the congressman stop arming Israel. (Eric Becker/Cascadia Daily News)

“I’ve been watching this genocide for eight months and nobody is doing anything about it,” Chilton said. “I watched my local representatives continue to send more money, more weapons [to Israel].”

She pointed toward a UN Human Rights Council report by Francesca Albanese that was released in March entitled “Anatomy of a Genocide.” 

“Following nearly six months of unrelenting Israeli assault on occupied Gaza, it is my solemn duty to report on the worst of what humanity is capable of, and to present my findings,” Albanese said during an interactive dialogue in Geneva in March. “There are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating the commission of the crime of genocide … has been met.”

Chilton said the protestors are trying to show up everywhere their representatives are to make their voices heard.

A pro-Palestine protester holds up a card critical of Congressman Rick Larsen. (Eric Becker/Cascadia Daily News)

“We’re done letting them have a moment of peace,” Chilton said. “You’re gonna say you represent Washington state — that’s us.”

While the war in Israel is by far the most important issue on the ballot for Chilton, Larsen told Cascadia Daily News earlier at the event that the most salient issues within the district are access to health care, rights to reproductive health, job creation and building the next generation of infrastructure.

Larsen said he is comfortable with the issues he’s been focused on, while also recognizing the importance of national security issues.

Pro-Palestine protesters line up outside the event. (Eric Becker/Cascadia Daily News)

“The plight of civilians in Gaza, the plight of the hostages still being held by Hamas, the long-term security of the State of Israel in a neighborhood that doesn’t want them, all combined are important issues right now,” said Larsen, who is on the campaign road in hopes of securing a 13th term in Congress.

Nonetheless, he said he was confident his time spent throughout the entire district has given him a good grasp of what issues he needs to be working on.

“Just because no one here is protesting me that I’m not doing enough to fight fentanyl, doesn’t mean fentanyl overdoses aren’t important in our community,” Larsen said.

A spokesperson for Larsen told CDN after the event that their goal for the kickoff series was to raise $5,000 and that after two events, they’d already raised $3,000.

Isaac Stone Simonelli is CDN’s enterprise/investigations reporter; reach him at; 360-922-3090 ext. 127.

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