Two Richmond residents, Paul Larudee and Kathy Sheetz, were among the hundreds of unarmed civilians on the Freedom Flotilla that attempted to bring 10,000 tons of medical supplies and building materials to Gaza by sea, when their boats were forcefully seized three days ago by Israeli commandos in international waters. Varying reports have stated that between 9 and 18 flotilla participants were killed and dozens were injured by Israeli forces. The names and nationalities of those who were killed are still unknown.
Reports from the Free Palestine Movement and the Free Gaza Movement have confirmed that both Mr. Larudee and Ms. Sheetz are still alive. According to information received from the US consulate in Israel, Mr. Larudee was seriously beaten when he silently refused to follow Israeli orders.
"I have worked with Paul Larudee on local housing issues in Richmond, and I know his track record of commitment to nonviolence in standing up against the oppression of Palestinians. It is unconscionable that he was brutalized by his captors while he was resisting peacefully following the tradition of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” stated Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
Mayor McLaughlin contacted Congressman George Miller’s office, which has been in touch with the US State Department concerning the welfare of Mr. Larudee and Ms. Sheetz, both detained along with the other survivors of the assault on the flotilla. According to Congressman Miller’s Washington, DC office, “all the Americans who have been detained in Israel from the flotilla have been taken to the airport and are expected to leave Israel either tonight or early tomorrow morning (Eastern Daylight time).”
Mayor McLaughlin further stated, “The people of Gaza have suffered collective punishment from the three-year Israeli blockade that has turned the region into a virtual prison, and their suffering was compounded by the relentless military attack of December 2008-January 2009 in which 1,400 civilians in Gaza were killed. I condemn the Israeli assault on the humanitarian Freedom Flotilla and join others in calling for an end to US military aid to Israel as long as the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, including the blockade of Gaza, continues.”