WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than a dozen state lawmakers and activists in the U.S. — including actor Cynthia Nixon from Sex and the City — have started a hunger strike calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
The five state lawmakers taking part in the hunger strike beginning Monday are Delaware State Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, New York Rep. Zohran Mamdani, Oklahoma Rep. Mauree Turner, Virginia Rep. Sam Rasoul and Michigan State Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck). They are joined by Nixon and various faith and community leaders.
Time reports the strike has been going on since Monday, when a group of activists and other state lawmakers from across the country began protesting outside of the White House.
Mamdani and Wilson-Anton are among the half dozen participants committed to avoiding food for five days. The rest will fast for less than five days. When Wilson-Anton — the Delaware lawmaker — received a call from Mamdani in New York asking if she would consider taking part in a hunger strike, she started crying. She had already been active on social media and participated in protests, but she says she still felt helpless.
“I wanted to do something else but I just didn’t know what,” she said.
She said she hopes the hunger strike will “bring attention to the fact that the U.S. government, our president and our congressional leaders are funding this policy of starvation.”
“We send American taxpayer money to bomb communities in Gaza and I don’t think our president is using his leverage to the extent that he could to bring about a permanent ceasefire,” she said. “We’re seeing the impact of that, which is no food, no water.”
Actor and activist Nixon participated in the hunger strike for two days. She is one of more than 260 artists who previously signed an open letter calling for President Biden and Congress to commit to a ceasefire. Speaking at a press conference outside the White House on Monday, she spoke of high civilian casualties in Gaza.
“None of this is normal,” she said. “None of this is routine and none of this can be allowed to continue.”
Those taking part in the hunger strike say that the U.S. should reflect on its unwavering support to Israel and that a pause is insufficient.
“The United States is not simply a witness to this genocide. It’s an actor in this genocide,” said Mamdani, the New York assembly member. “We are starving ourselves in front of the White House to show President Biden the consequences of his actions. This is what he’s doing to Palestinians. it is time that he sees at his doorstep, what it means to support policies such as these.”
Aiyash said goals include calling attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and giving more time for aid to be delivered.
“It’s incredibly painful to see that, despite the stopping of bombs right now, folks are under crumbling infrastructure,” Aiyash told reporters Tuesday. “Folks are under no running water, no access to food, no access to electricity.”
Aiyash is entering the hunger strike for its final two days, only having water, Gatorade and black coffee, he said. The strike is scheduled to end Friday.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Nov. 15, 68 percent of all American voters support a cease-fire in Gaza, saying that “Israel should call a cease-fire and try to negotiate.”
Sumaya Awad, an activist, writer and director of strategy and communications at the Adalah Justice Project, said the Biden administration is not listening to what the majority of Americans say.
“Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans across party lines support a cease-fire,” she said, adding that they want the U.S. government to call for a permanent cease-fire.
“The reason we’re doing a hunger strike, that we’re employing this tactic, is because we feel like he has not listened to the hundreds of thousands of Americans that have taken on all sorts of types of protests across the country,” she added.