by Stephanie Brown
At 10:30 p.m. last night, after one of the longest city council meetings in the history of Cudahy, the council passed a resolution affirming “the city’s support and solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza and US Representative [Cori] Bush’s Congressional resolution calling for an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine.” The resolution passed by a vote of three in favor, with one councilmember abstaining and one absent.
The resolution is likely the first show of support for a ceasefire by a Los Angeles area city and one of the first across the U.S., after Richmond, CA, Providence, RI and Easton, PA passed similar resolutions in the last few weeks. It also stands in marked contrast to the recent LA County Board of Supervisors resolutions “supporting the state of Israel” and a special motion that called for the “protection of human rights in Gaza and Israel.”
The Nov. 7 meeting dragged late into the night, with a few people attending in person and many more calling in via Zoom. Notably several people calling in said that they were not from the city of Cudahy, and with the number of commenters it was clear that publicity around the meeting had drawn public comment from across the LA region. Many of the callers represented larger organizations including the Arab American Civic Council, the Council on American Islamic Relations, and Jewish Voice for Peace.
Public comments were emotional and tense on both sides. Supporters of the resolutions thanked the council for their bravery and their leadership for introducing this resolution. They often cited the numbers of Palestinians killed or displaced, and repeatedly reminded the council that these situation and violence did not begin on October 7.
Cudahy Mayor Daisy Lomeli sponsored resolution No. 23-48 on Tuesday night. After hours of public comments and intense debate between members of the city council, it was passed with yes votes from Mayor Daisy Lomeli, Councilmember Elizabeth Alcantar, and Councilmember Cynthia Gonzalez. Councilmember Martin Fuentes abstained, and Vice Mayor Jose Gonzalez was not at the meeting. The resolution states, “the City stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza,” and calls “for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages taken by Hamas.”
A press release issued by the office of Representative Cori Bush (D-St. Louis), who inspired Cudahy’s resolution, said of her own proposed Congressional resolution: “I am grieving for every Palestinian, Israeli, and American life lost to this violence … and war and retaliatory violence doesn’t achieve accountability or justice; it only leads to more death and human suffering.”
After public comments, Mayor Lomeli began the council’s deliberation by thanking everyone for their emotions, tears, and anger, saying that “[her own] words and thoughts will never do this issue justice, but I hope that I can carry this issue forward and hopefully have my colleagues support … I think what we have presented tonight is really a focus on humanity for all victims involved in this mess. It’s been a terrible, terrible month, but also decades for Palestinian people. And as a mother … I must, must ask for it to stop.”
After Mayor Lomeli introduced the resolution, the room was open for conversation and debate. Councilmember Fuentes attempted to punt the decision to the local congressman, Robert Garcia, and argued the council should not make a decision that same night. Councilmember Cynthia Gonzalez then recommended various line edits to the resolution that she said would allow her to support it.
“So there are a lot of changes that I would like to recommend … I want to support something that is unique to Cudahy … and that I can go out and defend every word,” said Cynthia Gonzalez. She also wanted to update the resolution with a current number of Palestinians killed, since the number increased since the drafting of the resolution.
A motion to reconsider was passed, the new edits were added and at 10:38 p.m. the edited resolution was passed.
A night of emotional public comment
The meeting had kicked off at its regular time of 6:30 p.m. but saw more than three hours of public comment, mostly over Zoom, with dozens of people calling to weigh in.
“We cannot fund genocide … All my — my family in LA don’t feel safe anymore … And we believe in your leadership. Please do the right thing. Please give us hope,” Mervat, who identified as Palestinian-American, said. (People calling in did not spell their names or provide contact info to the general public, and some of these spellings are a guess.)
Opponents of the resolution invoked the violent attacks by Hamas and the right of Israel to defend itself as justification for the ongoing bombardment and invasion of Gaza.
“Israel has not only the right, but the obligation to defend itself and to do everything to make it impossible to make sure that this October 7th can never happen again. What is happening actually, it’s not territorial. It has to do with one thing, Hamas, a terrorist organization that has the ability to dismantle and to paralyze the citizens lives there” Miran, a former member of the Israeli military, generally referred to as the Israeli Defense Forces said.
Callers emphatically debated history and the definition of a genocide, apartheid, and occupation.
One month ago on October 7, the militant group Hamas broke down the barrier separating Gaza and Israel, and killed more than 1400 Israelis taking more than 200 Israelis (including several Israeli-Americans) hostage. Since then Israel has bombed Gaza relentlessly and begun a ground invasion. According to the Health Ministry of the Hamas-run territory the attacks have killed more than 10,500 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children. Israel, which controls the flow of resources in and out of the coastal enclave — has shut off water, electricity and fuel into the Gaza Strip, where more than 2 million people live. According to the UN Monitor, as many as 1.5 million people, 70% of the population of Gaza, have fled their homes and are displaced.
Major non-profit organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem have described the situation in Gaza as part of a decades-long system of apartheid by the Israeli state and military. Save the Children’s county director has stated that one child dies every 10 minutes.
“When I heard about this item being on the agenda I was like, of course it’s Cudahy. It’s got to be Cudahy, right? Smallest city in Southeast LA, bravest city in Southeast LA,” said mark! Lopez, a local community organizer and supporter of the resolution.
Adding, “I’m in support of the resolution and I, I can’t imagine anyone being, uh, against a ceasefire, right? Because if you’re against a ceasefire, that means you’re for war, you’re for violence.”
Eyal Ma’aita, a 15-year-old high school student and Palestinian-American, also called in to support the resolution.“I just want to thank you guys. And let you know how important it is to me that you guys are even considering this resolution. Calling the ceasefire would mean a lot to me because it helps me feel acknowledged in seeing all the genocide and ethnic cleansing of people in Gaza … it really hurts seeing the thousands of children murdered, and everyone being desensitized to it. Even here, my friends, they’re scared to wear Palestinian colors on their shirts, Palestinian flags, because they’re scared that they’re going to be attacked.”