CHICAGO—Chicago recently became the latest U.S. city to pass a ceasefire measure for the war in Gaza. Chicago’s city council members were deadlocked during the voting process at 23-23, resulting in Mayor Brandon Johnson’s vote breaking the tie on Jan. 31.
Since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began on October 7, 2023, nearly 27,000 Palestinians have been killed.
Hundreds of demonstrators descended on city hall; some to address the city council, and others to show solidarity for the Palestinian plight. All but one of the meeting chambers were restricted to the public, which left the lobby of city hall filled with hundreds of chanting demonstrators.
“The people united will never be defeated!” was chanted in the lobby, as protesters held Palestinian flags and held signs that read, “Stop the Genocide in Gaza!”
The vote came one week after Mayor Johnson—who has been in office a little over eight months—called for a ceasefire during a post-council press conference on Jan. 24.
“I condemn the actions of Hamas. But at this point now, I believe we’re at 25,000 Palestinians that have been killed during this war, and the killing has to stop. So, yes, we need a ceasefire,” the mayor said.
Naila Muhammad was at city hall. She stated, “Our brothers and sisters are being killed, and we need to do all that we can to help bring justice for them. I have co-workers whose family were killed in Gaza during a bombing.”
Alderwoman Debra Silverstein of the 50th Ward urged the council to vote against the ceasefire measure. Alderwoman Silverstein, who is the city council’s only Jewish member and is the sponsor of the measure, stated, “Chicago, America’s third largest city, should not vote to strip away President Biden’s control over U.S. foreign policy, especially not as we are inviting him here for the Democratic National Convention.”
Alderman Timmy Knudsen also voted against the measure. “Despite spending several months in Israel and the West Bank experiencing kindness from Christians, Muslims and Jews on both sides of the separation wall, I ultimately cannot vote yes. My office has dealt with numerous incidents of anti-Semitism such as hate language and graffiti in our parks and on neighbors’ homes in recent months. For those reasons, I cannot support the resolution as a result,” he said.
“While I know that this resolution did not cause these incidents, I also know that the way in which these conversations were conducted left many feeling unsafe and alienated. It is our job to work to support all people in our communities in a way that makes them feel supported, and not pitted against one another.”
After the measure was passed, Alderwoman Silverstein said she was disappointed with the vote’s outcome and with the mayor’s support of the resolution.
“Mayor Johnson had the opportunity to be a unifier. We reached out several times with suggested language that will be acceptable for us. And we were just ignored,” she said. “He could have taken the time to sit down with us and work with us to come up with a resolution that could have potentially gotten unanimous support.”
“The questions are quite simple. Do we value the lives of children, do we value the lives of women? Do we value the lives of our Palestinian siblings? Do we believe in their rights to live, to have a home, not to live in the largest open-air prison in the globe?” stated Alderwoman Jesse Fuentes, of Ward 26.
The symbolic declaration in the nation’s third-largest city follows weeks of rowdy public meetings with disruptions from demonstrators, including on Jan. 31 when things became so boisterous the first-term mayor had to temporarily clear the council chambers. The resolution, approved includes a call for humanitarian aid and the release of all hostages. Supporters in the chambers included the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Chicago is latest U.S. city to approve such a non-binding resolution, following Atlanta, Detroit and San Francisco in recent months.
“It was important for people to feel represented by their elected officials. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a Muslim person in City Council; it is very important that people in the community know that even though they are not represented on this floor, there are people who hear your voices,” said 45th Ward Alderman Jim Gardiner. Associated Press contributed to this report
—Shawntell Muhammad, Contributing Writer