During a confirmation hearing for the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, the U.S. Capitol Police arrested six people for protesting. However, recently in a court hearing, only two of the Muslim protesters face misdemeanor charges — the other four protesters were allowed to pay a small fine.
Both the protesters facing charges, Taher Herzallah and Kareem El-Hosseiny, are Muslims of Arab descent. They now face a penalty of $500 and six months in jail. Both the protesters were charged with unlawful conduct in Congress.
However, Herzallah and El-Hosseiny’s lawyer, Ann Wilcox, believes the case is based on racial, religious and ethnic bias and she plans to file a motion to dismiss the case.
“For similar conduct, they should have been treated the same [as the other protesters],” she added.
All the protesters were arrested on Feb.16 during Friedman’s confirmation hearing where they were urging lawmakers not to confirm the nominee. However, what comes as surprise is that despite the fact that all the protesters behaved in the same way (each one of them stood up and spoke until security escorted them out), only two of them face different charges from the others.
Herzallah and El-Hosseiny held up Palestinian flags as they spoke while Isaac Flegel-Mishlove, a Jew, blew a shofar, a musical instrument used in Jewish religious ceremonies. Another protester, Tali Ruskin, wore a smock with “Stop settlements” written across the front.
However, the punishments the protesters received were very different from each other. Two paid a $50 fine the same day they were arrested while another paid $35. Thomas Corcoran, a protester, was told that he had to appear in court but later his case was moved to traffic court. However, it wasn’t as easy for Herzallah and Hosseiny, who were told that they had to appear in court and weeks later they were charged with misdemeanors.
The two protesters then considered accepting a plea deal that would have banned them from Capitol grounds for four months with 32 hours of community service. But, later they decided to reject it as they believe it was discriminatory treatment and they want to fight it.
The group of protesters revealed that after arresting them, it nearly took the officers six hours to process the protesters as they appeared to change their minds several times. They couldn’t decide whether to fine them or send them to court.
“They were arguing among themselves about what should happen with us. It seemed like the officers were either untrained or it was their first time dealing with this,” said El-Hosseiny.
Lila Weintraub, who was arrested after demonstrating with IfNotNow and was fined $50 for her actions, said, “That to me is the most blatant example of racism and Islamophobic practices. I can’t really see any other reason why they wouldn’t have all gotten the same charge.”
Friedman was Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer. He has lived in an Israeli settlement and raised millions of dollars to fund settlers in the West Bank. He has also spoken critically of the two-state solution and compared Jewish organizations to Jews who aided the Nazis during the Holocaust.