With 50 people in the temporary city council chambers at the Minneapolis Public Services Center and dozens more in overflow spaces throughout the building, the Minneapolis City Council voted on an amended resolution calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas by a 9-3 vote, with one abstention. The final vote comes at a Thursday morning City Council meeting.
The council approved eight amendments to the bill which was initially introduced at the Jan. 8 City Council’s organizing meeting.
“I would be remiss not to take a moment to state how devastating of a moment in time we are in where a City Council is thinking of a resolution to call on the federal government to take action and call for the end of hostility,” said Councilmember Aurin Chowdhury, one of the co-authors of the resolution. “At the center of this resolution. It is about humanity, the loss of human life, the loss of civilians … who are disproportionately and unjustifiably killed.”
Nearly 20 organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace Twin Cities and IfNotNow MN, have signed on to the resolution in support of a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, supporting Palestinian human rights, and “urgently needed humanitarian aid.” The resolution also calls for: “an end to U.S. military funding to the State of Israel, and an end to U.S. tax dollars contributing to humanitarian catastrophe and loss of life; ensure the release of all Israeli hostages taken by Hamas; and ensure the release of thousands of Palestinians held indefinitely without cause and trial in Israeli military prisons.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas said the views of JVP and IfNotNow are not representative of the majority of the Jewish community.
JCRC Executive Director Steve Hunegs called the presentation of the amendments “one-sided” and in many cases “misrepresenting the record.”
The tenor of the meeting was less tense than the Jan. 8 introduction of the resolution. Councilmember Linea Palmisano was shouted down repeatedly at that meeting when she tried to speak; at Tuesday’s meeting, the protest was silent. Supporters of the resolution silently held up red-painted hands meant to symbolize blood to show their displeasure whenever a councilmember spoke in opposition or was in any way critical of a resolution.
“October 7 was a traumatizing event for many members in our community. And in spite of enormous grief residents are experiencing, they have mobilized and spearheaded a local grassroots movement that is part of a larger global call for justice,” said Councilmember Robin Wonsley, who was the lead writer on one of the earliest drafts of the resolution that were floated.
Palmisano, who along with LaTrisha Vetaw voted against all of the amendments and the final marked-up version, said that there was an opportunity to pass something that wouldn’t further divide the community.
“I fear that despite conversations begging otherwise, we have just amended a divisive document, not to come together around a statement that we all could stand behind in this moment,” she said. “That’s not what these amendments have tried to do.”
Ethan Roberts, the deputy executive director of the JCRC, said the amendments did not improve the resolution.
“The bottom line is: as amended, the resolution is more divisive, more inflammatory and more antisemitic, invoking false charges of genocide – which is a form Holocaust inversion – while failing to condemn Hamas or sexual violence,” said Roberts. He said that the council’s resolution “would still allow Hamas to remain in power in Gaza, well positioned to carry out their promise to commit further atrocities over and over again while cutting off vital American military support for Israel.”
Among the supporters of Israel was Gabrielle Prosser, a former city council candidate from the Socialist Workers Party.
“We think Israel has the right to exist, and Hamas is an organization whose declared aim is to destroy Israel and kill all the Jews in the region. And we think that needs to be opposed,” she said. “They put their rocket launchers in the middle of civilian areas to maximize death to use it as leverage politically and to raise money and to raise sympathy for their hatred.”
Michael Rainville, who also voted no on the marked-up version, echoed Palmisano’s call for a resolution that wasn’t so divisive. He lamented the amount of time that the council has spent on the resolution, that could have been spent working on local issues. Wonsley responded that as councilmembers, they have to “walk and chew gum at the same time.”
“In the midst of working with hundreds of residents who have advocated for the ceasefire, that has not taken me away from meeting the needs of my residents,” Wonsley said.
Vetaw countered that, for her its about prioritizing the needs of the North Minneapolis ward that she represents.
“I can walk and chew gum with the best of them. I’ve been doing it for a long time. But I also want to make sure that the people who elected me feel supported at City Hall because that’s the goal,” Vetaw said. “They don’t feel supported down here. They don’t feel like they have a voice.”
After the final vote on Thursday, the ball will be in the court of Mayor Jacob Frey, who is Jewish. Tuesday’s vote, if the numbers remain the same, would be veto-proof; it takes nine votes to override a veto.
Frey spokeswoman Ally Peters said in a statement: “The Council had an opportunity to support a unifying resolution calling for peace, a two-state solution, return of hostages, and ceasefire. Instead, the language advanced was one-sided and divisive. The Mayor is currently focused on City business. He will be reviewing his options over the next several days.”