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Cambridge City Council Unanimously Calls for Ceasefire in Gaza

The Cambridge City Council unanimously passed an amended resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
The Cambridge City Council unanimously passed an amended resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. By Julian J. Giordano
By Ayumi Nagatomi and Avani B. Rai, Crimson Staff Writers

The Cambridge City Council unanimously passed an amended resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza during a marathon Monday meeting following weeks of criticism from activists over its failure to do so last November.

The resolution, released Thursday, calls for an “immediate, negotiated ceasefire by both Hamas and Netanyahu Administration” and the “release of all hostages.” The Council considered a similar resolution in November but ducked a vote, drawing the ire of protesters from Harvard, MIT, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Before the Council called for a final vote, Mayor E. Denise Simmons said that she disagreed with speeches from Cambridge residents claiming that the “Council has done nothing up until this point.”

“We have spent a good deal of time on and going through this particular policy or version of it,” Simmons said.

The Council approved six amendments to the resolution, including amendments by Councilor Patricia M. “Patty” Nolan ’80 calling Hamas a terrorist organization and recognizing the City Council’s limited influence on American foreign policy.

“While city councils have no direct influence on American foreign policy nor any authority to direct the federal government’s actions,” the amended resolution read, “there has nonetheless been a steady call for municipal bodies, nationwide, to symbolically join the call for the freeing of the October 7 hostages and a ceasefire.”

Councilor Paul F. Toner, who supported Nolan’s amendment, said while he was empathetic to condemning acts of violence, there were too many “international issues” that the Council could be asked to act on.

“If we’re going to tie up the City Council every week on these kinds of topics, this is what we’ll be doing every week,” Toner said.

But Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler said he felt it was important for the Council to deliberate on the Israel-Hamas war.

“This issue has also already divided our community, regardless of whether the Council does anything and sometimes airing those divisions and dialogue is necessary for reconciliation,” Sobrinho-Wheeler said.

The vote came four days after the Somerville City Council passed a similar resolution, making Somerville and Cambridge the first two Massachusetts cities to publicly endorse a ceasefire in Gaza.

In a statement Monday night, Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley (D-Mass.) praised both resolutions.

“I’m grateful to our colleagues in Somerville and Cambridge for their courage and solidarity, and to the activists on the global and grassroots levels who made this important progress possible,” Pressley wrote. “From Massachusetts to the Middle East, our destinies are tied and our pro-peace, pro-humanity movement is strong.”

More than 80 protesters — including Harvard and MIT students — flooded into City Hall at the beginning of the virtual meeting, which was projected in the lobby. As some Cambridge residents spoke in opposition to the resolution during more than three hours of public comment, protesters drowned out their speeches with chants of “Shame” and “Free, free Palestine.”

Kojo Acheampong ’26, an organizer with the unofficial Harvard group African and African American Resistance Organization, criticized what he called the “both sides-ism” of the proposed amendments to the resolution.

“There’s no both sides to this. This is genocide,” Acheampong said. “We unequivocally want a ceasefire.”

The co-sponsors of the resolution — Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern and Councilors Sobrinho-Wheeler, Sumbul Siddiqui, and Ayesha M. Wilson — did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday evening.

Prince A. Williams ’25, another AFRO organizer and a Crimson Editorial editor, called the resolution’s passage a “win for the movement, especially in Cambridge.”

Still, he said that pro-Palestine protests will continue until the conflict in Gaza ends.

“We don’t win until Palestine is free,” Willams said.

Correction: January 30, 2024

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Kojo Acheampong called the Cambridge City Council’s original ceasefire resolution an example of “both sides-ism.” In fact, he was referring to amendments to the resolution.

—Staff writer Ayumi Nagatomi can be reached at ayumi.nagatomi@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @ayumi_nagatomi.

—Staff writer Avani B. Rai can be reached at avani.rai@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @avaniiiirai.

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City PoliticsCambridge City CouncilMetroFront Photo FeatureIsrael Palestine