My Tense Exchange on a Train with US Sen. Chris Coons over Gaza

ANGLO AMERICA, 20 Nov 2023

Aaron Maté – TRANSCEND Media Service

14 Nov 2023 – After questioning Sen. Chris Coons about his opposition to a ceasefire in Gaza, I was removed from a train heading to DC. A recap of our viral exchange, and a response to false media coverage of it.

On an Amtrak train heading to Washington, DC on Monday, I found myself sitting directly across from Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware. Coons is one of President Biden’s closest Senate allies, and a staunch supporter of Israel’s ongoing attack on Gaza. With the Palestinian death toll under US-backed Israeli bombardment passing 11,000, including more than 4,600 children, I took the opportunity to ask the Senator why he opposes a ceasefire.

This led to a testy exchange where Coons initially refused to answer and threatened to have me “thrown off this train” for persisting in asking. The Senator pointed out that were sitting in the Quiet Car, and claimed that I was violating its rules. “I’m a senator, this is a quiet car. You’re breaking the basic rules of how we operate on Amtrak, please stop,” he said.

I replied that I am of the opinion that the US, in arming and supporting Israel’s bombing campaign, is violating international law. (As an aside, Amtrak rules do allow for “conversation” in the Quiet Car, provided that passengers “speak in subdued tones,” which I attempted to do). Finally, at Coons’ request, a train attendant told me to move or be ejected from the train. I complied, gathered my belongings in silence, and was placed in a different seat in the same car.

For Coons, this apparently was not enough. About 45 minutes later, the Senator walked by me. I did not engage, but it was clear that my presence agitated him. A short while later, at a stop in Philadelphia, I was approached by three police officers and removed from the train. They told me that this was done at the request of the train’s conductor, which I can only assume came at Sen. Coons’ behest.

Video of the exchange, which you can watch below, has been widely circulated, and received coverage in outlets including the Daily Mail, New York Post, and The Hill. The Post claimed that I “accosted” the Senator, a judgment that I’ll let viewers decide on for themselves.

The Post also asserted that The Grayzone, where I work, has “published fringe theories claiming that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad did not use chemical weapons during the Syrian civil war.” My reporting on the Syria chemical weapons issue has in fact focused primarily on the alleged April 2018 gas attack in Douma, where the OPCW suppressed its own evidence and baselessly implicated the Syrian government. My reporting is based on leaked OCPW documents, which have been buried in Orwellian fashion by media outlets across the spectrum. In coverage of the Douma story, these outlets universally refuse to even mention the OPCW leaks, or the veteran OPCW inspectors who challenged the cover-up within their organization.

The Post also claimed that The Grayzone has claimed “that the Chinese Communist Party is not oppressing the Uyghur community in the Xinjiang province.” This is another false claim: The Grayzone has never made such an assertion, and has in fact cited experts who describe China’s policies against Uyghurs as “cruel,” and “repressive.” The Grayzone has challenged the US government’s claim that China is committing “genocide” in Xinjiang, and its reporting on the topic has never been refuted. The failure to refute Grayzone’s work includes the US-government funded outlet Coda Story, which the Post cites to support its false claim. In the article that the Post links to, Coda Story doesn’t challenge a single fact in The Grayzone’s reporting.

Because I am of the opinion that the US is supporting a genocidal assault on Gaza, I decided to question Sen. Coons about it in that moment. As a result, he was inconvenienced with an awkward exchange and a viral video of it. I was inconvenienced with removal from the train and an hour-long wait for the next one. The people of Gaza have no escape from the mass murder campaign that Coons and his colleagues are supporting.


Aaron Maté is a journalist with The Grayzone, where he hosts “Pushback.” He is also a contributor to Real Clear Investigations and the temporary co-host of “Useful Idiots.” In 2019, Maté won the Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent media for Russiagate coverage in The Nation.


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