On April 18, the New Orleans City Council held their regular council meeting where they discussed a plethora of issues, none of which included a ceasefire resolution calling for the end of Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza. Since October 7, Israeli attacks have killed an estimated 33,900 people and have enacted a genocidal campaign of mass hunger, while simultaneously targeting hospitals and universities. Members of the public urged City Council to introduce a ceasefire resolution by making the case for councilmembers that the problems New Orleans faces are directly intertwined with the genocide in Gaza. Residents responded to documentation from the “clean-up efforts” of homeless encampment sites around New Orleans, and members of the public sat in the audience holding signs that read “PALESTINE IS A LOCAL ISSUE,” “SILENCE IS COMPLICITY,” and “NOLA CEASEFIRE RESOLUTION NOW” as people took turns submitting public comments tying displacement in New Orleans to displacement in Gaza. To date, Chicago is the largest American city to pass a ceasefire resolution. The following is an excerpt of in-person public comments.

It’s important for the City to report records on the unhoused people who have been displaced and the ongoing housing instability. I’m reminded of residents who have also been displaced in these last seven months during the genocide. With that displacement has also come the forced famine of two million people. The World Health Organization has said that this catastrophic hunger has and will lead to death and health effects that will remain for a lifetime. I ask you, can you imagine the pain and cries of a young child as their bodies wither away? A cruel and slow death, and the worst part is that it’s preventable. There isn’t a lack of food in Gaza, there’s a lack of access. You might say, “Well, that’s happening thousands of miles away, how are we responsible for this? Why are you here? What do you want from us?” I’ve come here with so many others, we want to show you that this is City business. And that is deeply intertwined with our local community and values that we hold dear. A ceasefire resolution will show the world where New Orleans stands. Morally, it will show the world where you stand—that you do not condone violence or starvation or apartheid anywhere. We already know the people of New Orleans will not stand for this. Our community has spoken loudly with thousands of petition signatures and consistent marches urging the City Council to address this issue. And we’re happy to address this with you. We have emailed, called, and showed up to your offices… A ceasefire is moral, strategic as well, for you and the City, and will be remembered kindly by history. More than 125 cities have passed a ceasefire resolution already, and by the will of God, New Orleans will be the next.1Hakeem A.

Earlier today I heard councilmembers talk about the need to not allow hateful rhetoric from the State, our bigoted legislature, to stand unanswered. Right now before the legislature is a bill in support of Israel and the bigoted policies there. And if we don’t say anything as a City Council then we have let the legislature speak on our behalf. Silence is not a solution to genocide. In the 1980s, the New Orleans City Council took a stand against apartheid South Africa by passing binding ordinances requiring the divestment of public funds from entities connected to that now defunct racist state… We have a tradition of resistance in this city that cannot be denied. Please continue in that tradition and not this new tradition of silence.2Joshua T.

I support unhoused people, and opine clean-ups are inhumane. I want to add my voice to urging the New Orleans City Council to demand a ceasefire from the Biden administration as well as the U.S. Congress that’s funding genocide in real time. I support the Palestinian people first and foremost because it is a humane position to hold in the face of ongoing genocides. Second, as a Black woman, I am aware there is a long history of solidarity in our community recognizing the struggle of Palestinian liberation as it’s connected to our own within the belly of the beast that is the U.S. empire. The Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, W. E. B. Du Bois later in life, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, the list goes on… Israel is a European settler society in that region built on stolen land just like the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand whose leadership offers unwavering support for genocide. Let’s do something different in New Orleans than to give millions to Israel that can [instead] help house people here at home. Thank you, free Palestine, and long live the resistance.3Terry F.

Just as the City of New Orleans puts business interests ahead of the poor, the City is putting the interest of imperialism over the lives and dignity of its Palestinian residents. More needs to be done to help the unhoused, who the City has failed, and the City needs to act to aid the Palestinians in Gaza. The City has aided in the destruction of their homes and the genocide of their people. Gaza is where the justice of the unhoused must begin. The City Council needs to meet with the Palestinian community and pass a ceasefire resolution that meets all their demands.4Tony D. J.

While this City has these reporting standards on their sweeps, the data collection metrics are not sufficient and are only exacerbating the harm these policies have on our unhoused neighbors. When I see this agenda item, I am reminded of the thousands of Gazans who have also been displaced in the over six months of genocide. Nearly 195 days at this point. When I see this agenda item, I am reminded of the thorough record-keeping the Gazan Health Ministry has been doing to show people that a genocide is happening, the death toll now at nearly 40,000. When I see this agenda item I am reminded of the fact that the City of New Orleans is giving millions of dollars to the “state” of Israel to displace others when it could be spending that money here on our community… Show us New Orleans is different. Show us New Orleans is setting a precedent for the rest of the state. Finally, I want to leave you with the words of Cole Arthur Riley, and I really hope you hear these words and you think about them, and they stay with you. “To those who have chosen complacency and status over the protection of the oppressed, there is still time to make a different choice. Listen to the guilt that plagues you. Come alive.”5Mary H. J.

Regardless of how sufficiently or insufficiently well-documented these encampment sweeps are, it doesn’t really matter. They’re doing immense harm to our community. I think it also brings to mind the Palestinian folks who have been displaced, murdered, and intentionally starved not only in the past six months but in the past 75 years. Because these things are connected. And that’s also why I wanted to speak in favor of the ceasefire resolution. I know it can be kinda tough sometimes, during times like these, to understand what our responsibility is, what our place in history is, but we need to understand. We’re in the same position as the folks who had to make decisions about whether or not to take in refugees from the Holocaust. We’re in the same position as folks who had to decide whether or not to divest from apartheid South Africa. So we owe it to our family, Samaher and Tawfic, to make the right decision. If we make the wrong decision we bring great shame to our children and to our ancestors. And you know, typically, if you’re a Democratic politician, it’s smart to be on the side of the young people, so I just want to point that out as well. It’s politically expedient, as they would say.6Felix A.

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