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Israeli flags are held high in a packed council meeting

Richmond City Council passes controversial resolution supporting Gaza that draws hundreds to meeting

on October 25, 2023

Following a hot debate, with over 300 residents weighing in on the issue, the Richmond City Council voted 5-1 Wednesday morning for a resolution affirming Richmond’s support and solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza. 

“The fact that you’re here tells me this is a Richmond issue,” Mayor Eduardo Martinez told the crowd, which spilled from the council champers into an auxiliary room and included more than 100 speakers present and and an additional 200 commenters on Zoom.

The resolution acknowledged the loss of lives in both Israel and Gaza, voiced opposition to military aid to Israel, and called for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid to Gaza, as well as “an end to Israeli apartheid and the occupation and blockade of Palestinian land by Israeli military forces.”

A crowd attends Richmond City Council meeting with no seats left
The crowd at the City Council meeting spilled from the main room into an auxiliary room. (Thomas Sawano)

Most of those who spoke at the meeting favored the resolution and stayed to hear the vote, which took place around 12:30 a.m. Councilmember Cesar Zepeda voted against it, saying a larger conversation was needed around uniting the community; and District 6 Councilmmber Claudia Jimenez was absent.

When the resolution was first made public, pro-Israel groups spoke out against it because it did not acknowledge attacks against Israelis. The council amended the resolution to include a reference to the loss of civilians on both sides and a call for an immediate release of all Israeli hostages taken by Hamas.

Early Tuesday, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia issued a statement urging the council not to take up the resolution. “Instead of voting on the proposed resolution tonight, I strongly recommend that the Council play a leadership role to bring together our Muslim and Jewish communities to work together to develop a resolution that acknowledges and validates the voices of both communities,” he wrote.

A police officer stands in front of the council podium pacing the audience
Police Chief Bisa French at the City Council meeting (Amaray Alvarez)

The meeting was volatile from the start, with the first group of speakers arousing cheers from one group and boos and insults from another. A small confrontation prompted the council to take a two-minute break, with those who were disruptive threatened to be removed. Martinez explained that the meeting would end if the crowd could not be respectful. Police were present and spoke to those who continued to yell out during the meeting or spoke after their time was up.  

Members of the public questioned if the Brown Act was being followed, as attendees were asked to leave if they had already spoken so that those outside could be let in. The exchange of people was hectic and at one point, when Martinez went outside to speak to the crowd, people with Palestinian flags rushed to take photos with him.

Some residents, such as Jack Ritterman, felt that the resolution was offensive to both sides. “Calling for a cease fire would have been a better resolution,” he said.

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