WASHINGTON (CN) – A woman who interrupted Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress claims supporters of AIPAC, the powerful Israeli lobby, roughed her up when she stood up from her seat in the Gallery of the U.S. House and opened a banner stating “Occupying Land is Indefensible,” while shouting, “No more occupation. Stop Israeli war crimes!”
Rachel Abileah sued three John Does and a Jane Doe in Federal Court, in a complaint nearly identical to the one she filed in Superior Court in August.
Abileah, a 28-year-old U.S. citizen of Israeli descent and an employee of the grassroots social justice organization CODEPINK, says she was authorized to attend the May 24 event by a member of Congress.
“As soon as Ms. Abileah entered the Gallery, she noticed that many of the people sitting around her were wearing badges identifying themselves as attendees of the 2011 American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (‘AIPAC’) Police Conference,” her complaint states.
Ten minutes after Prime Minister Netanyahu began his address, Abileah says, she “stood up from her seat in the Gallery and opened a banner that read ‘Occupying Land is Indefensible.’ At the same time, she shouted, ‘No more occupation. Stop Israeli war crimes!'”
The four John Does immediately assaulted her, she says.
“Immediately after Ms. Abileah opened the banner, John Doe 1, who was seated in the third seat to her right, attempted to grab the banner from her hands. John Doe 1 then threatened and caused Ms. Abileah physical injury by intentionally grabbing her arm and pulling her towards him, causing Ms. Abileah to fall to her right,” the complaint states.
She says another assailant pushed her from behind as she fell.
“As this happened, the people seated around Ms. Abileah, including, upon information and belief, John Does 2 and 3, and Jane Doe, began to boo Ms. Abileah’s peaceful protest and cheer John Doe 1’s physical assault of her,” according to the complaint.
Abileah claims that she fell two rows in front of her, all the while being grabbed and pushed. She says one man “put his hand over her mouth to gag and suffocate her.” That man also “yanked her head back,” she says.
Plainclothes Capitol police officers “told her [Abileah] that they saw the assault and it was clear that she got ‘roughed up,'” the complaint states.
Abileah says she suffered emotional trauma and neck and muscle strains, resulting in frequent headaches. She seeks $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages for assault, battery and false imprisonment.
She is represented by Lynne Bernabei with Bernabei Wachtel.