Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that while there were about a dozen core organizers of the vigil, an estimated 100 people were involved in the planning process.
More than 100 congressional staffers participated in a vigil in front of the Capitol building Wednesday, calling on members of Congress to support a cease-fire in the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel.
“We are congressional staffers on Capitol Hill, and we are no longer comfortable staying silent. We were horrified by the brutal October 7th attacks on Israeli civilians, and we are horrified by the overwhelming response by the Israeli government that has killed thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” the official statement from the vigil’s organizing group, Congressional Staff for Ceasefire, read.
Members of the group read the statement aloud at the vigil, which lasted about 10 to 15 minutes, before they left peacefully at the urging of Capitol Police.
“Our constituents are pleading for a cease-fire, and we are the staffers answering their calls. Most of our bosses on Capitol Hill are not listening to the people they represent. We demand our leaders speak up: call for a cease-fire, a release of all hostages, and an immediate de-escalation now,” the statement continued.
In an interview with The Hill, an organizer of the vigil — who asked not to be identified because he works for a member who has not called for a cease-fire — estimated that more than 100 staffers from more than 40 to 50 offices attended the vigil Wednesday. The organizer said the group was bipartisan and included House and Senate staffers.
“What we saw today was a first-of-its-kind demonstration that congressional staff are no longer comfortable standing by and watching, as their bosses ignore the will of constituents, the American people,” the organizer told The Hill.
The group coordinated with outside groups ahead of the vigil, he said. While there were about a dozen core event organizers, he estimated more than 100 people were involved in the planning process.
The vigil comes amid a wave of demonstrations across the United States calling for a cease-fire, including a large protest in D.C. this past weekend.
“We, for weeks, have seen the mass killing of civilians now in the Middle East, in a time when it does not seem our members of Congress are willing or able to listen to the calls for cease-fire — not only coming from their staff, but from the constituents that they allege to represent,” the organizer said.
“It’s truly just disheartening to spend this long seeing our members turn a blind eye to it, when it is such an important and such a critical issue, not only to America but on the world stage,” he added.
The vigil comes at a significant moment in the conflict between Hamas and Israel. According to the latest death toll from the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, more than 10,000 Palestinians have died in the last month.
The organizer said more than 10,000 flowers were at the vigil Wednesday, to create a visual representation of the number of human lives lost as a result of the war.
“We wanted to make sure that there was something there that could not only honor each and every life that has been lost in this so far, but also to quantify it for people walking by tuning in and reading about this on the news,” he said. “And I think that’s why it was so important that we did have over 10,000 flowers there today to symbolize each one of these flowers is a human life.”
The conflict began when Hamas launched a surprise attack on the southern border of Israel, killing more than 1,400 Israelis. Hamas also took an estimated 240 hostages, approximately all but four of whom are still being held. Israel responded with a barrage of airstrikes on Gaza and has begun a ground operation. Israel says its goal is to retrieve the hostages and to destroy Hamas, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization.
Updated 7:37 p.m. Nov. 8