The Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday in support of a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza.
Following the attack on Israel by the Islamist militant organization Hamas on Oct. 7 which claimed the lives of over 1,200 Israelis, Israel has engaged in an ongoing bombardment and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in an effort to eliminate Hamas.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health — the only official source for Palestinian causalities in Gaza — has claimed that the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza since Oct. 7 is more than 22,000.
The City Council resolution urges President Joe Biden and Congress “to demand an immediate ceasefire to urgently end the violence in Gaza and Israel.”
A copy of the resolution will be sent to the offices of all members of Maine’s congressional delegation and President Biden, calling upon them to “take immediate action and use their position and influence to end violence.”
Councilor At-Large Pious Ali, the sponsor of the ceasefire resolution, introduced amendments during Wednesday’s City Council meeting adding language calling for the “unconditional release of hostages” and the “creation of passage for relief.”
Sally Bowden-Schaible, a psychotherapist and activist with Healthcare Workers for Palestine and Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights, spoke in favor of the resolution during public comment.
“The mainstream media place responsibility for the awful violence in Gaza on Hamas alone,” Bowden-Schaible said. “Israel and the U.S. control the narrative, and while the violence perpetrated by Hamas in Israel cannot and should not be condoned, the cycle of violence did not begin on October 7th.”
“The genocide being perpetrated in Gaza by Israel, and supported by the U.S., is nothing short of inhumane, morally corrupt, and dangerously unwise,” she said.
Tyler Redskye, who works with “restorative justice” organization Youth Led Justice, and is described on the organization’s website as a “queer non-binary trans settler,” also spoke in favor of the resolution Wednesday.
“To look at October 7th and blame Palestinians for what happened, for 75 years, and call it a conflict, and call it complicated, is the same mechanism that allowed us to have enslavement, that allowed us to have genocide on indigenous peoples, that allow us to see ten times the rate of punishment for BIPOC youth than white youth face,” Redskye said.
“[Israel] is a colonial project, and the people will not stand for it,” Redskye said. “We will remember who stands with us, or against us.”
Bobbi Cope, one of the speakers who commented in opposition to the resolution, began her comments by clarifying that the resolution makes no mention of Hamas.
“No ceasefire can be achieved without first condemning Hamas, and disbanding Hamas from power,” Cope said. “And second, the unconditional and safe release of all hostages.”
“The Israeli army is waging a war for survival, for the very existence of their very small nation,” she said. “They have one goal, with no other agenda. That goal is to eliminate the terrorist group Hamas, the perpetrators, whose primary goal is Jewish genocide.”
When another speaker expressed her opposition to the resolution, a commotion on the upper level of the Council Chambers caused Mayor Mark Dion to ask for an officer to be sent upstairs.
“Can we have an officer go upstairs, cause obviously they don’t understand English, I’ve said it more than once, if you continue that way you probably–” Dion said before being cut off by an outburst from upper level.
The mayor had to continuously ask attendees throughout the meeting to remain quiet during and after public comment, and to refrain from clapping or snapping their fingers in support of certain speakers.
Dion later apologized for his statement, saying that he was “in error making the comment, ‘do you speak English?’ — it was out of line, and I extend my public apology for having expressed that.”
“I guess I still have a lot of work to do as a person, and some things come out, and I appreciate being called on it,” Dion said.
“I’m old school, trying to learn what I should do moving forward, to more effectively represent all of you,” he added. “And I think part of that is to admit when I’m wrong, so I do so tonight, and I hope you accept my sincere apology for having done so.”
During discussion on the resolution, City Councilor At-Large Roberto Rodriguez said the resolution is important because it is for the Council “to have a voice on issues that perhaps we don’t have an opportunity to take action.”
“But important is also, is that we get to document history, we get to document our perception and acknowledgment of current situations,” Rodriguez said. “And with these amendments, we have a more accurate portrayal of what is happening in the world.”
Councilor Victoria Pelletier also spoke in support of the resolution, saying “it’s ‘free Palestine’ all day every day for me.”
“Black people and Palestinians have a shared history of trauma, and oppression, and genocide, and anti-blackness,” Pelletier said.
Following discussion, the Council voted unanimously to adopt Councilor Ali’s proposed amendments and to pass the resolution.
Read the full ceasefire resolution passed by the Portland City Council below: