Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Arizona cease-fire activists use Marianne Williamson as their primary vessel

By 37ci3 Mar20,2024


PHOENIX – With no protest ballot options like Michigan’s “safe” ballot line, Arizona activists calling for a cease-fire in Gaza are using a new vessel for their message: Marianne Williamson.

Tuesday’s Arizona Democratic primary is largely symbolic, given that President Joe Biden has already endorsed his party’s nomination. But activists hope to use Williamson’s continuation on the state ballot to send a message to the Biden administration about its anti-Israel policies.

“We are not dreamers and we think he will win. That’s not the point,” said Belen Sisa, 30, one of the organizers behind Vote Cease AZ, which is pushing Arizonans to vote for Williamson.

“We want to take these votes to send a very clear and measurable message to the Biden administration: ‘You need these votes in November.’ If you want us to vote for you, you should do better and call for a ceasefire,” said Sisa.

preparing for the arizona election
Dan O’Neal, a volunteer for Vote Ceasefire AZ, makes phone calls during a phone banking session, encouraging Arizonans to vote for Marianne Williamson.Alex Tabet/NBC News

Election rules vary from state to state, which means that the “unsettled” option available in Minnesota and Michigan is not available on Arizona’s primary ballot. With no write-in option, organizers opted to back Williamson.

“It’s not about endorsing him as a candidate,” Sisa said, adding: “It’s just tactical and using his name to achieve what we want to achieve.”

Vote Ceasefire AZ’s main demand is in its name: a permanent and immediate ceasefire and de-escalation of violence in Gaza. And for a while Biden called for a temporary truce In the past, the Arizona activist coalition isn’t impressed with how those words translate into what actually happens on the ground.

The president spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday and warned him against a planned military operation in the southern city of Rafah, according to the White House. But on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after that phone call, Netanyahu reiterated his plan to launch an attack.

“I would tell President Biden to have the courage to go the extra mile and not just use words because it’s actions that matter,” said Rowan Imran, a Palestinian American who has family in the West Bank and friends in Gaza.

Imran, Sisa and the rest of Sas Ateshkas AZ set a symbolic goal within reach for Williamson on Tuesday.

“We believe that getting to 10,000 would be a strong statement,” Imran said, because that’s roughly the size of Biden’s margin over former President Donald Trump in Arizona in 2020.

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Rowan Imran at the Voice Ceasefire AZ phone bank meeting in Phoenix on Sunday.Alex Tabet/NBC News

To achieve this goal, Vote Ateshkes AZ appeals to voters with old and new methods. Dozens of volunteers gathered at phone banks over the weekend, contacting Arizona voters across the state to encourage them to vote for Williamson on Tuesday. Sisa, who is the national Latino press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, is using the social media she’s built on the Sanders campaign to spread the word.

“When you come from a grassroots movement, you don’t have all the money in the world,” Sisa said of their low-budget operation.

The activist group is aware of criticism from pundits and the left that these cease-fire campaigns will support former President Donald Trump in the general election. But they reject this idea.

“Some people who oppose us say it just helped Trump win,” Sisa admitted. “In fact, it is the opposite. “We know from what we’re hearing from community members and those who are going to vote in November that they’re not happy … what we’re trying to say is do better, do better because we know what’s coming.”

He believes that if the status quo remains in November, Biden will lose support in the general election. And by pushing Biden to take demonstrable action for a lasting cease-fire in Gaza, they’re actually helping him win back support by November.

“Our insistence is just to make sure Trump doesn’t win in November, because we know he could be worse than Biden in this,” he said.

Despite spending time and limited resources to get Arizonans to vote for Williamson on Tuesday, Vote Ceasefire AZ is making it clear they are not officially endorsing his president. And the organization has not contacted Williamson’s team to coordinate the push. Speaking to NBC News before a campaign event on Sunday, Williamson said he wasn’t worried about their lack of endorsements.

“One of the things you learn in politics is not to complain. It’s never going to win,” said Williamson, who recently made a rather unusual move stop and then stop his campaign.

“I try to focus on what’s most important and that’s the conversations. So the conversation about Gaza is that many of us understand that there needs to be a ceasefire,” Williamson added.

He hopes that his campaign can win delegates and votes at the Democratic National Convention, something he has so far failed to achieve, increasing his leverage to press Biden for more progressive policies, including, but not limited to, his policies on Israel and Gaza.

As for the Biden campaign, even though primary voting is over, D-Md. Rep. Jamie Raskin visited Tempe on Sunday to campaign as Biden’s surrogate. When asked, he said he was “unaware” of the effort to support Williamson.

Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt wrote in a statement: “The president believes that making your voice heard and participating in our democracy is central to who we are as Americans. It works to end violence and establish a just, lasting peace in the Middle East. He works tirelessly for this.”




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