135 Mennonites arrested in Washington Singing for Gaza Ceasefire
200 attend peace vigil while 135 arrested at Capitol
On January 16, 2024, hundreds of Mennonites and interfaith allies from across the United States met in Washington, DC for a historic gathering calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Mennonites are members of a historic peace church with roots in the Anabaptist Reformation. They have a long history of nonviolence and anti-war resistance. They also have a long history of aid work in Palestine through humanitarian groups such as Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Palestine Israel Network, Community Peacemaker Teams, and more.
The civil disobedience action and peace vigil action were coordinated by Mennonite Action, a grassroots movement formed in November 2023. As snow fell through the weekend, Mennonite Action gathered participants for art builds, trainings, and fellowship to prepare for the peaceful action.
“Civil disobedience is divine obedience,” a participant who was later arrested shared during a training.
On the morning of January 16, 135 participants—as young as 18 and old as 83—peacefully entered and occupied the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building. Risking arrest, they sang hymns in four-party harmony and chanted “Let Gaza live!” calling on elected officials to support a permanent ceasefire. Protesters held banners designed as quilts proclaiming messages like “Send Food Not Bombs,” “Let Gaza Live,” “Release all Hostages,” and “Mennonites for Ceasefire.”
Even as police arrested them, put them in restraints, and led them out of the rotunda, protesters continued to fill the halls of Congress with hymns calling for peace as they waited to be transported offsite for processing. By evening, all were released safely from custody and welcomed with food and cheers before returning home.
While Mennonites peacefully occupied the rotunda, around 200 others of all ages held a peaceful outdoor vigil across from the Cannon building. They braved snow and wind to pray, sing hymns, share stories, and hold a children’s time. Some said the singing of the inside demonstrators could be heard from across the street. As the arrestees were loaded into police vans, peace vigil attendees surrounded them in support, singing and praying and blessing their journey.
In the afternoon, participants hand-delivered copies of a petition to their representatives showcasing Mennonite support for a ceasefire. Congregations and individuals spent weeks circulating the petition and it reached 5,000 signatures the night before.
Jonathan Brenneman, a spokesperson for Mennonite Action, told The Washington Post, “As Christians who see Christian nationalists championing Israel’s genocide, we felt compelled to speak clearly as Christians,” he said. “To demand a cease-fire. To demand an end to U.S. military funding of the Israeli military. To call for a release of all hostages—Israeli and Palestinian—and an end to the occupation.”
The January action followed a day of action on December 19, where Mennonites in 40+ regions across US and Canada took peaceful action for a ceasefire. That action was known as the largest Christian-led coordinated day of action for a ceasefire since the war in Gaza began.