Dozens of protesters shut down Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting after demanding members pass a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Speakers made emotional pleas during an extended public comment period for the council to take a symbolic stand against the Israeli bombardment that has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, many of them children. Several described being horrified by videos and images of civilians killed and wounded in the assault, saying Berkeley must take any step it can to declare its opposition to what they describe as a genocide of Palestinians.
After the public comment period, Mayor Jesse Arreguín tried to continue with the council’s agenda but was interrupted by demonstrators who chanted, “do something now!” and “cease-fire now!”
Council members left the dais one by one as the chants continued, then briefly returned so they could vote to call a special meeting on Nov. 21 to take up the rest of their agenda. They then adjourned the meeting over boos from people in the audience.
The Richmond City Council drew national attention and a large protest in October when it passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire, the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and “an end to Israeli apartheid and the occupation and blockade of Palestinian land by Israeli military forces,” among other demands.
Advocates have called on several local government entities, including Oakland’s city council and school board and the Berkeley school board, to make similar statements opposing the war and pledging support to Palestinians. More than 1,000 people also signed a petition calling on the Berkeley school board to condemn antisemitism and hate.
The Berkeley City Council has not adopted a resolution on the war in Gaza, and members have so far not indicated they are interested in doing so.
Two council members told Berkeleyside that passing a resolution would not be productive. Another, Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani, wrote in a social media post that she respects the right to protest but was disappointed Tuesday’s council meeting could not continue because of the disruption, which she called “unproductive.”
A spokesperson for Arreguín declined to comment Wednesday.
The closest the council has come to making a statement was at a meeting on Oct. 10, days after attacks by Hamas killed about 1,200 Israelis and the military assault on Gaza began, when the council agreed to a request from Councilmember Sophie Hahn to ceremonially adjourn in honor of “all who have died through acts of terrorism … and to pray that the loss of life — all loss of life — cease.”
Demonstrators at Tuesday’s meeting noted Berkeley has taken stands on international issues in the past, such as with its move in 1979 to divest from companies that supported apartheid-era South Africa. They pledged to continue pushing the council for a cease-fire resolution through email campaigns and by showing up to meetings.
“I hope all these council members know this won’t be the end of it,” one speaker said, “this is just the beginning.”
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