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Pro-Palestine candidate Cori Bush wins US congress primary

Cori Bush earned a reputation as an activist on the streets against police brutality. [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 August, 2020

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Cori Bush earned a reputation as a fierce activist on the streets against police brutality in Missouri, and she made headlines for supporting the Palestinian cause.

Ferguson protester Cori Bush ousted William Lacy Clay from his Missouri congressional seat on Tuesday, one which his family had held for half a century.

Bush’s primary win lines her up for a seat in Congress representing the heavily Democratic St. Louis area.

Bush earned a reputation as a fierce activist on the streets against police brutality in Missouri, and she made headlines for supporting the Palestinian cause.

A nurse, pastor, and progressive activist, Bush has defended the pro-Palestine Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement beyond it just being a matter of freedom of speech, as the Democratic party often does.

Her opponent, Clay, accused Bush of anti-Semitism for appearing in a photo with Palestinian-American activist Lina Sarsour during a protest against the US caging migrants, but this did not weaken Bush’s support for Palestinians.

“She stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people, just as they have stood in solidarity with Black Americans fighting for their own lives,” her campaign said in a statement.

The victory also comes just over two months after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis prompted massive protests and created a nationwide movement toward the sort of police reform that Bush championed in Ferguson.

“It is historic that this year, of all the years, we’re sending a Black, working-class, single mother, who’s been fighting for Black lives since Ferguson, all the way to the halls of Congress,” an emotional Bush, 44, said after her victory.

Kayla Reed, co-founder of the local Black-led political activist group Action STL, said Bush’s victory is especially momentous for people who protested during the Ferguson Uprising in 2014, when the nascent Black Lives Matter movement began gaining prominence.

It also holds national significance in that Bush’s ascent to Congress would grow the number of House members whose politics on criminal justice reform are aligned with the movement, added Reed, who is also an organiser in the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 organisations that make up the broader BLM movement.

“What this win really signifies is a desire to change the guard to one that is more relatable and accountable to its constituents,” Reed told the Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday.

“When you think about the moment John Lewis went to Congress, this is very close to that for the people of Ferguson. This isn’t someone who tried to swoop in, put Ferguson on a shirt, and run a campaign.”

Bill Hall, a political science professor at Webster University in suburban St. Louis, said Clay was conspicuously on the sideline during most of the unrest in Ferguson, while Bush was on the street earning a reputation as a fierce proponent of the effort to get police and courts to treat Black people more fairly.

“Since 2014 with the Ferguson escalation and this movement of activism, Clay has not been actively engaged and involved as one would think he would be given his background and heritage,” Hall said.

“For people like Cori Bush who have, it’s beginning to pay dividends.”

Bush told AP on Wednesday that her activism opened her eyes to the need for political change.

“The idea that my son or my daughter, or somebody else’s loved one could be the next hashtag,” she said.

“Thinking about how our elected officials didn’t step up for us, especially those who represent the area, especially our congressman. That was enough for me.”

This comes as US Representative Rashida Tlaib emerged victorious on Wednesday from the Democratic primary election in her home state of Michigan, continuing her political career as the first Palestinian American US congresswoman.

Upon her first election victory in 2018, Tlaib became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, as she was sworn into the US House of Representatives on the same year as Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, another member of the "squad".

Tlaib has become well-known for her Palestinian advocacy inside Congress, showing up to this year's State of the Union in a traditional thobe and at one point being banned from entering Israel due to her activism.

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