"We need to stand up and say we're not going to stand for this, and we have to have a cease-fire," said the chair of the state's progressive caucus.
Thousands of protesters demanding an immediate Gaza cease-fire forced an early shutdown Saturday of California's Democratic Convention in Sacramento in a resounding rebuke of national party leaders' support for what the demonstrators called Israel's "genocidal" war on the Palestinian people.
Protesters chanted "cease-fire now" and waved Palestinian flags as they marched through the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center, where California Democrats were set to vote on their state party platform. The flood of demonstrators prompted security guards to lock down entrances to the building, ending the day's official events well ahead of schedule.
Outside the convention center, activists from Jewish Voice for Peace laid out 500 pairs of shoes representing the more than 5,000 children killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since the October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel that left around 1,200 people dead and about 240 others kidnapped.
Fatima Iqbal-Zubair, chair of the California Democratic Progressive Caucus, said that "disruption has to happen in a democracy for something drastic to change."
Delegate Sameena Husman told CBS News that "a lot of people who are Democrats have lost faith in the party" due to its leadership's staunch support for Israel.
"We need to stand up and say we're not going to stand for this, and we have to have a cease-fire," she added.
Earlier on Saturday, activists interrupted a Democratic U.S. Senate candidates' forum, disrupting speeches by U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. Rep. Barbara Lee—the sole California Democratic Senate candidate supporting a Gaza cease-fire—was cheered as she called for an end to the 44-day war in which Israeli forces have killed or maimed more than 40,000 Palestinians and forcibly displaced over 70% of the besieged strip's population.
In preliminary results released Saturday night, none of the Senate candidates mustered the 60% majority required for the party's endorsement. Lee led the pack with over 41% of delegate votes, closely trailed by Schiff with 40% and Porter garnering just 16%.
"I was the only one who voted against the authorization to use force right after the 9/11 horrific events," Lee told convention attendees. "And yes, I am calling for a cease-fire now."
While U.S. President Joe Biden has resisted demands for a cease-fire in favor of a so-called humanitarian pause, progressive Democrats led by Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) have signed on to a resolution urging the president to push Israeli leaders to agree to a cessation of the relentless assault on Gaza.
"We want to stop the genocide against my people in Gaza," said Adeeb Alzanoon with the Sacramento Coalition for Palestinian Rights.
"I've lost 42 of my extended family," Alzanoon—who is Palestinian American—added. "We all come here to stand up for justice and for peace."
Many of the demonstrators at the convention had a simple message for Democratic leadership: "In November, we'll remember."
Farah Ard'Lana, a 22-year-old organizer with Palestine Youth Movement and Students for Justice in Palestine at Sacramento State University, toldThe San Francisco Chronicle that the Democratic Party must "reckon with the fact that their complicity and silence will lose them a generation of voters."
"These politicians say that they support us, but they're empty words," Ard'Lana added. "They're not following their morals."