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Community members demand action from Sen. Tammy Baldwin with Palestinian Children’s Day Vigil

(Photo by Rodlyn-mae Banting)

Madison community members gathered on the 300 block of W Mifflin St. on Friday in front of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office and hung lines of baby clothes, serving as a vigil for the children who’ve been killed in Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza. April 5 was Palestinian Children’s Day, which typically celebrates the children living in occupied Palestine. 

This year, because of Israel’s ongoing aggression on Gaza and the West Bank, the Defense for Children International – Palestine launched a campaign called, “Marking Palestinian Children’s Day as International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian Child.” According to the humanitarian organization Save the Children, over 13,800 Palestinian children have been killed by Israel’s ongoing genocide. 

Typically held on the last Friday in the holy month of Ramadan, the vigil also falls on Al Quds Day, “an annual, international day to express support for Palestine and oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories,” according to al-Jazeera.  

Organized by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP), a local volunteer-run organization advocating for Palestinian rights, the demonstration honors and grieves the young lives lost in Gaza and the West Bank, and aims to increase pressure on Sen. Baldwin to call for a permanent ceasefire. The displayed clothes were repurposed from donations MRSCP received for an installation at UW-Madison’s Library Mall in January, meant to symbolize the 500 children under two years old who’d been killed by the Israeli military at the time.

MRSCP member Amy Atalla-Hill, who confronted Sen. Baldwin at an election fundraiser this past winter, reiterated her desire for the senator to call for a permanent ceasefire. “[People] are for a permanent ceasefire. And if she represents me, and she represents all these people calling and emailing, what’s the disconnect here?” she asked. 

In December of 2023, Sen. Baldwin expressed her support for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza, and joined a group of senators pushing President Joe Biden to facilitate the “restoration of a mutual ceasefire agreement in Gaza” in mid-February of this year. 

In a March 20 letter to President Joe Biden from Baldwin and 18 other Senate Democrats, they said that by providing a “roadmap for U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state, the United States can set a path to finally realizing a two-state solution and reinvigorate conversations towards a comprehensive regional peace plan.” Such reforms will only be possible, they added, following a ceasefire in Gaza.

(Photo by Rodlyn-mae Banting)

While Baldwin said in an interview with CBS58 last week that she hopes Israeli and Hamas “could agree to a permanent ceasefire,” her constituents are asking her to take a firmer stance. 

“I need her to be brave,” Atalla-Hill said. “It takes a lot to stand up to the powers that have taken over our country. So it’s not a small thing to call for a permanent ceasefire. But what that means is saving lives.”

Volunteers wrote messages in chalk on the sidewalk and on the pavement directly in front of Sen. Baldwin’s office building, which read, “Blood on your hands!,” “Tammy, how many more?,” and “How many dead children are enough?” which passersby eyed as they made their way around the square, occasionally taking flyers from MRSCP.

Community members came out and showed their support, bringing their young children with them. Parent Sol Kelly-Jones emphasized her disappointment in Sen. Baldwin, especially since she has historically supported children’s rights. 

“She’s come out with some positive things [about] wanting children to have aid, but then she’s also supported funding packages to continue more military aid to Israel,” Kelly-Jones explained. “And I think as an advocate for children, as someone we respect in her record on human rights, we want her to be a stronger advocate for peace and justice, and a stronger advocate for ending our complicity.”

As a parent of a two-year-old, Kelly-Jones highlighted the importance of her family being in solidarity with families worldwide. “Part of what we talked about in our family is every dollar we spend destroying another child’s house on the other side of the world should be put here to housing, kids, and families here and really investing in livable futures for all of us,” she said.

The vigil comes ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit to Madison on Monday, April 8. His local appearance comes less than a week after 48,000 Democratic Wisconsin voters cast “uninstructed” ballots during the state’s primary election. These votes were intended to send a “resounding warning sign” to the president about how Israel’s genocide in Gaza will impact the possibility of his re-election this upcoming November, according to a Listen to Wisconsin social media post. 

“I would say to Biden, we need an immediate ceasefire, and there’s lots of actions he can take,” Kelly-Jones said. “I’m glad he’s voicing now wanting a ceasefire. But if you want a ceasefire, we stop sending bombs, we stop arming Israel, we start vetoing UN resolutions, [and] we stand for accountability. 

“We stand for justice, we open aid routes in, and we stop standing in the way of real efforts for justice and peace.”