The public viewing balcony in the House of Delegates was cleared out Friday morning after individuals calling for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas shouted at the delegates on the House floor below.
The disruption came after U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin — chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — spent a few minutes addressing delegates.
The Democrat spoke about his time as speaker of the House of Delegates and the work of “Team Maryland” to get federal aid to the state.
After the first person stood and shouted, current House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones ordered: “Please clear the gallery.”
Cardin, at that moment, was shaking hands and chatting with delegates.
“Our friend Ben!” one person shouted, echoing a tagline from Cardin’s commercials, eliciting applause from lawmakers.
State troopers spent about one minute telling a few dozen people in the balcony to leave, as Jones plowed ahead with the House agenda of routine items.
Most in the balcony left willingly, but one of the last to leave shouted: “We call for a ceasefire! Ceasefire now! Ceasefire!”
Earlier in the morning, activists from several groups held a rally outside the State House on Lawyers Mall in support of a General Assembly resolution calling for a ceasefire to the war. A spokesperson from one of the coalition members said they did not sanction the disruption and did not know the people responsible.
The Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants killed some 1,200 people in Israel, and another 250 were kidnapped. More than 26,000 Palestinians have died during the nearly four-month war, and nearly 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes.
Cardin’s colleague, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, came out this week firmly in favor of a ceasefire. The senior senator, Cardin, acknowledged that the pair aren’t seeing eye to eye on the Middle East turmoil and said they’ll work though it.
“All of us want to see this war end. We want to see Hamas no longer a threat to Israel or the Palestinians,” Cardin told The Baltimore Banner in response to the State House disruption.
Cardin weighed the multiple challenges still ahead, including returning the Israeli hostages home and addressing the humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza.
He said there needs to be a “renewed effort” to provide humanitarian assistance to the the people of Gaza and to help them return to “any degree of normal life.”
“It’s unacceptable, the circumstances that are in Gaza today, and all of us need to do more,” he said.
Cardin said he and Van Hollen agree on much about the conflict.
“We have a common view about Israel’s need to defend itself and the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” he said.
“The real challenge is what comes next,” Cardin said, adding there needs to be a path forward where each side recognizes the other’s sovereignty.
Cardin said that according to Israeli and U.S. eyes on the ground, there has been “substantial success in eliminating the command network and infrastructure of Hamas; that’s clear in the north, less clear in the south.”
Challenges of the terrain in the region have kept military forces from targeting some pockets of Hamas, Cardin said.
A resolution filed by members of the Maryland House calls on Maryland’s congressional delegation to support a “long-term ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine,” a release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas and more humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.
“All human life is precious, and the targeting of civilians, no matter their faith or ethnicity, is a violation of international humanitarian law,” the resolution reads.
The resolution’s lead sponsor is Del. Gabriel Acevero, a Montgomery County Democrat.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.