October 23, 2023

prev: October 16, 2023 next: October 30, 2023

Public Commenters (30 min)
Dallas Eckman  Chance  Nima Homami  Shereen Naser  Riley Petro  Claire Lewis-Wright  Cameran Branford  Dhoruba Balagoon  Adam Rosen  Marc Ashed 

Dallas Eckman

Good evening. I am not here to be kind to respectful. I'm here to be honest and tell you about yourselves. First I'll start by shaming the entirety of this government, its representative party, and the council members before me for their pathetic in- action in the face of genocide happening right now in Gaza. I'm sure you tell yourselves lies like, 'that has nothing to do with me', or 'there's reasons to listen to both sides' while a nuclear superpower emboldened by the Democratic Party obliterates children in hospitals and meets nearly every agreed-upon criteria for war crimes. Despite your inaction to decry this, Blaine Griffin and the good Mayor Justin Bibb did not find it within their hearts unprompted to state their support for Israel. Of course never once mentioning 75 years of atrocities, occupation, land annexation, racism and ethnic cleansing committed by that state. Those crimes don't matter I presume because the Palestinians have no financial sway in the world.

Mr. Bibb understands well the financial sway Israel can have over politicians of this country. In 2019, Key Bank announced their $9 million purchase of 35-year Israeli bonds which it stated showed its commitment to the country. I remind you once again the country which was founded just 75 years ago on the expulsion of millions of Palestinians from their ancestral homes. But Bibb did not seem to mind this as that same year, he was the VP of Corporate Strategy for KeyBank, gladly traveling to Israel and accepting their blood money for his bank project. So it makes sense then in 2022 when he is elected Mayor of Cleveland on a mere 15% of the voting population of our city, he felt emboldened to say a City of Cleveland stands with Israel. Is it true that Cleveland stands with Israel or does his financial interest which mandate a 35-year commitment to Israel seem more likely to be the reason for his outrageous claim?

I'm standing here today with members of the Palestinian community and its allies to lay shame on your feet for this government's inability to call a spade a spade. When not one but two hospitals have been bombed and children die by the literal second, one would think a body like this would grow a spine and denounce the genocide. So here's your opportunity. Use your elected office to do good instead of squabbling idly with activists over ballot initiatives like you have for the past few months. Instead advocate within your party to denounce Israel. Stop all US funds which prop up the genocidal project, and go down in history as being late to the right side instead of being remembered as monsters who could silently approve ethnic cleansing because it was politically inconvenient to say something. Good night.

2:11 Permalink


My name is Chance and I'm a member of the Palestinian youth movement. I not only come here today as a proud Palestinian, but as a Cleveland resident.

As a Palestinian and as a Clevelander, I find it abhorent that members of City Council such as yourself, Blaine Griffin, even though you're not here, and Mayor Justin Bibb, who is also not here, would publish one-sided statements such as 'Cleveland stands in solidarity with Israel'. Since you have posted these statements of solidarity on social media, over 5,000 Palestinians have been killed indiscriminately by Israeli air strikes, including 255 children. Israel is committing war crimes such as using white phosphorus on the Palestinian population in Gaza, bombing schools and hospitals, including the al-Ahli Hospital, killing 500 Palestinians and denying humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip.

Just yesterday, a Palestinian in Cleveland was hit by a car with a driver shouting 'kill all Palestinians', 'Long Live Israel', and just yesterday a Palestine protest in Chicago was shot up by a pro-Israel counter-protester. These actors feel emboldened to attack Palestinians with impunity because of city officials like you issuing statements of support for Israel and condoning their genocidal rhetoric. How can we expect our city officials to protect us when they ignore the thousands of Palestinians they claim to represent in Cleveland?

I want to address Mayor Bibb directly. In 2021 during your mayoral campaign, you hosted a meeting with Arab citizens of Cleveland, which I attended, which you admitted to taking paid and sponsored trips to Israel, but stated you were open to learning about the Palestinian narrative. However, it seems in 2 years since then, you have continued to ignore the entire Cleveland Palestinian community. I am disgusted that the mayor of Cleveland would rather take the time to be in celebrity basketball games rather than meeting with communities of Clevelanders whose families are undergoing a genocide. Just 3 days ago, I lost nine members of my family. In the past week, I've lost another six members in my family. So I ask, how many more people do Clevelanders have to lose for this city council and this mayor to say anything about Palestine or stand in solidarity with us? If this is what the city of Cleveland stands for, then quite frankly, I'm disgusted and ashamed of the city I call home.

As Palestinians, we demand members of this Council and the mayor retract their statements in support of Israel, we demand that these same members issue new statements recognizing the ongoing genocide that our Palestinian families face, and we demand that you make Palestinians in this city feel safe and valued. Thank you. Free Palestine.

3:11 Permalink

Nima Homami

Good evening. As I begin, I would like to quote a verse from the Quran, Chapter 17, verse 37. 'Do not walk proudly on the earth. Your feet cannot tear apart the Earth, nor are you as tall as the mountains.' I quote this verse because some of the city council members here seem to have egos that are as tall as the mountains, judging by how they have arrogantly ignored their constituents during public comment last week.

We have people here who have sacrificed a large part of their day to be here, and who are here not because they want to be here, but because they need to be here, because their voices are not being heard. I have seen Palestinians muster up the strength to be here despite the mental anguish they are going through right now as they witness their people, their family members, become martyred every single day due to Israel's indiscriminate bombing of homes, schools, and hospitals.

Palestinians have been subject, despite the horrifying dehumanization, Palestinians have been subject to by the media and by politicians like yourselves. They have shown up and delivered heart-wrenching testimonies about what it's like to live under occupation, and yet the response from some of you while they are pouring their souls out has been to look at your phones, to have side conversations, to impatiently gaze off into space. I don't say this to shame you because I think that many of you have no sense of shame left. I say this to tell you what Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims in the Greater Cleveland area are feeling. We are furious. We are waking up to your true nature, and our appetite for political engagement has never been greater. Speaking as someone from the Muslim immigrant community, I can say this is a remarkable moment. After 9/11, we were told to keep our heads down, don't get involved in politics, but now we see what happens when we don't get involved. In the face of a genocidal onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza, Mayor Justin Bibb released a statement saying, quote, 'Cleveland stands with Israel in the face of terror' with no mention of the fact that Gaza itself has been terrorized by Israel for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, Congressman Max Miller of the Ohio 7th District gloats on Fox News about how, quote, 'we are going to turn Gaza into a parking lot.'

This kind of rhetoric has real life consequences. A six-year-old Palestinian child in Chicago was brutally stabbed to death because of this exact kind of rhetoric. But we don't expect you to care. My reason for speaking here today is not to convince you of anything, it is to tell you that those of us from the Palestinian community, from the Arab community, from the Muslim community, we have collectively experienced a moment of clarity. We now know who our friends are, we now know who our enemies are, and I can say I don't see many friends in front of me. Tens of thousands of us live and work in Cleveland. We have been a dormant political force until now, but now that we know who our enemies are, we will be mobilizing our people and our financial resources to bring a permanent end to the political careers of every single genocide-enabling elected official in the city. May Allah forgive you because we will not.

3:00 Permalink

Shereen Naser

Mayor Bibb and Cleveland City Council, I stand before you today as a proud resident of Ward 15, a mom of two beautiful girls that will soon be attending CMSD schools, a voter in Cleveland, a good neighbor, someone who takes my job as a member of this community very seriously. I'm also Palestinian. I want to show you my humanity. I want to believe that if you see my humanity that maybe the genocide of people that look like me, the family members of 25,000 Palestinians in the Greater Cleveland area, will be worthy of this city's empathy.

I was astounded when Mayor Bibb and some members of City Council made lightning- fast statements of support for Israel. In good faith, we came last week and told you how careless and potentially dangerous those statements were. We have received nothing but radio silence. I can't help but wonder what exactly is this city's obsession with this foreign country? Cleveland has been ranked one of the worst cities nationally for black women. It has taken a year to even get a commission going to address the issue. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't be making statements about anything else until Cleveland became the best city in the country for black women. The people of this great city surged in the streets and begged you all to take police brutality seriously, and here's our mayor lotting a country holding almost 5,000 Palestinians, including from the West Bank where there is no Hamas, in prison with no due process. Almost 200 of them are children. Our city, the city that killed Tamir Rice, is sending police officers to train in a settler colonial state holding 2 million people in open-air prison. That's the foreign country you all apparently want to learn from and spend our money in and support so strongly.

And if I believe this was truly just a statement made from compassion, where was your compassion when Cleveland citizens like me used our right to peacefully protest, a cornerstone of our democracy, and we got mouthwash sprayed in our faces by Israeli extremists? Where was your compassion when the same man sabotaged the property of Palestinian students on Cleveland State's campus? Where is your compassion for the Palestinian in North Olmsted yesterday who was hit by a car, the driver yelling, 'kill all Palestinians, long live Israel'? How about when a 6-year-old Palestinian boy was stabbed to death in Chicago last week? Where was your compassion when a crowd of Palestinian mourners in Illinois had an Israeli extremist open fire into their gathering, all because of words like 'terrorism' you just throw around casually?

I want to take a moment to thank those brave Council people who, when they did post statements were more thoughtful and intentional with their words. Thank you. That is the leadership we need in the city. That is the leadership that will unite our city. That is the leadership that will keep our city safe and thriving.

As a voter in this city, that is the leadership I want to stand behind. That is the leadership that 3,000 people who stood in Public Square this weekend demanding a ceasefire will stand behind. I hope for those of you who express such unwavering support for a foreign country quicker to use its guns and bombs than its democracy, you will too become leaders I want to stand behind.

2:56 Permalink

Riley Petro

Mr. Bibb, I came here today to make one thing clear. While some may believe that your statement in support of Israel was made out of ignorance, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that what has guided you to support Israel and stay silent in the wake of suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza is your own personal interests, interests which have compelled you to look the other way and that is what I am here to condemn.

In 2019 as Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Key Bank, you would help to secure $9 million of Israel bonds. These bonds invest directly into the government of Israel and its economy. Investments that it is able to use to expand settlements and the further displacement of Palestinians from their homeland. As you look towards running for mayor, some of your first major donors were former PNC Bank executive Paul Clark and Forest City Realty Chairman James Ratner, both staunch investors in Israel bonds. And just last month, Key Bank Foundation donated $2.5 million towards the city's new neighborhood repair program, a donation you as mayor called an 'incredible investment'. And while our city does in fact have many areas that need to be built up, it should not come at the expense of the destruction of Gaza and the murder of thousands of Palestinians. With financial incentives like these, it's clear that your support of Israel is not a moral one. It is self-serving and shameful.

You ignore the cries of Palestinians being bombed in hospitals and churches to raise campaign funds and pull political favors. You stayed silent after the backlash on social media, the collection of petitions and the multiple rallies for Palestine here in Cleveland, including Saturday's rally with 3,000 people taking to the streets. But make no mistake, Mr. Bibb, the people of Cleveland are your constituents, not your former employer Key Bank, not your donors, and not Israel, and we demand that you denounce the genocidal campaign in Gaza and fully devest the city of Cleveland from Israel. It is the people who have the power, and when the people are united they can never be divided. Free Palestine.

2:28 Permalink

Claire Lewis-Wright

Hello. My name is Claire and I'm speaking on behalf of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the working people of Cleveland. We stand with Palestinians fighting for their freedom from Israeli occupation.

Recently the PSL circulated a petition calling for Justin Bibb and Blaine Griffin to retract statements they made in support of Israel. We condemn our local politicians' support for Israel because we understand that each politician that stands in solidarity with the racist, criminal apartheid state of Israel is complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people. When our local leaders refuse to denounce the genocidal campaign led by the Israeli government, they also fail to represent us as working people.

Especially, many black working class people stand with Palestinians in their struggle for liberation, not only because their struggle is righteous but because our struggles are one and the same. There is a decades long history of black people in the US and Palestinians standing in solidarity with each other. Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and Nelson Mandela all supported the Palestinian right to self-determination. Both black people and Palestinians have struggled against racist apartheid and brutal state violence. The Cleveland Police Department is one of many local police departments that sent delegations to Israel in order to train with the Israeli military where they learned and exchanged tactics. The tactics CPD learned were used to violently subdue peaceful protesters in 2020. Even the tear gas that the IDF uses against Palestinians is the same as what the local police departments in the US have used against peaceful protesters here. When protesters were met with brutal state repression in 2014 during the protests against police brutality in Ferguson, it was Palestinians who showed support and even advised protesters on how to wash tear gas from their eyes.

It is clear that our local and national government do not represent the working people. The US sends billions of dollars to Israel every year while neglecting the needs of working Americans. Justin Bibb won in an election where only 15% of eligible voters participated. Bibb says that Cleveland stands with Israel. The working people of Cleveland clearly say free Palestine. End all US aid to Israel and free all Palestinian political prisoners.

2:23 Permalink

Cameran Branford

My name is Akili Kajani Abara, serving as Minister of Information for the Republic of New Libya. The comments of council's leadership on the recent genocide of Palestinians are proof of the Western propaganda against humanity. The council's leadership comments on an Israel is the opposite of what Clevelanders believe . It's shown today and it was shown Saturday in Public Square.

The Republic of New Libya stands with Palestine cuz we understand that Black liberation struggle and the Palestinian liberation struggle are all based on land. Israel's state has killed over 400 Palestinians and dozens of children, yet you say we condemn the acts of Palestinians as if they are the evil ones when you are bombing hospitals, homes, and communities. What we're we seeing is an ethnic cleansing by brutal militarized regime. As a Black man in America, I recognize militarization and ethnic cleansing when I see it. Black people won't find liberation if the Palestinian people don't find liberation.

I demand Council leadership to revoke his statement against Palestine and for once stand with the people of Cleveland. Free the land, and from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

1:12 Permalink

Dhoruba Balagoon

Forgive me if I'm a little parched, y'all need to fix them water fountains. Also the fact that Bibb and Griffin isn't here, it's kind of weak. Must have felt the heat.

Peace and power, everyone. My name is Dhoruba Ahmed Balagoon, I'm with the Black Nationalists of the Republic of New Libya, and also an organizer within the local indigenous community as I'm [inaudible] Saponi, and of Catawba and Tuscarora descent. The Republic of New Libya is a revolutionary Black Nationalist organization that supports the Ohio District of the Republic of New Africa, but due to years of COINTELPRO, of the organization, we have lied dormant for decades until recent increasing threats to the Black nation, and people as a whole in particular, gentrification has led to our revitalization by the blessing of our elders.

As Black New African people, we too have been an oppressed nation, and an internal colony ever since we were brought here in chains over 400 years ago, from integration and forced assimilation, discrimination, mass incarceration, police brutality, and gentrification. We too have struggled to fight for our self-determination, sovereignty, and survival. This is why we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, as we are both internal colonies fighting for national independence.

We understand as Malcolm X said that land is the basis of independence. The Palestinians have been fighting for the land for generations against the settler colonial state of Israel backed by the imperialist empire of the United States. Through this relationship, Israel has been connected to countless counter revolutions and apartheid regimes from South Africa to Dictator Pinochet during the Chilean coup. Don't be fooled. Many of these here that we are addressing aren't naive, clueless, or ignorant, but willfully complicit with Zionism, settler colonialism, and genocide, no different from when President Biden in 1986 stated that if Israel didn't exist they would have to create one, and no different from the fact that Israel is trained the Cleveland and New York City Police, and police departments across the country. Especially for increasing militarization and repression of those resisting and protesting, remember that Israel is a strategic gateway for the imperialist United States to have leverage and access to the Middle East and its resources.

As Malcolm X, a supporter of Palestine along with Huey Newton, Angela Davis, and Kwame Ture said, you show me a capitalist and I'll show you a bloodsucker, and that is Israel and the United States. And now, I turn my attention to the people here to say, stay the course, because from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free, and imperialism will one day cease. Free the land.

2:32 Permalink

Adam Rosen

Thank you, Council President McCormack for, acting Council President, tonight and pardon me while I catch my breath, I just ran in from outside. And thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to present public comment tonight.

I was here before you three weeks ago in what seems like a lifetime, providing remarks about how hate, including anti-Jewish hate, can divide and prevent us from obtaining the future we're dreaming of. I shared a story about the 160-year-old Jewish cemetery around the corner from my house in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood that my community helped to preserve, how that brought people together, and how it made me proud to be a Jewish Clevelander.

Tonight I feel the weight of the ancestors, of my ancestors, on my shoulders. The Jewish people have had a long history of supporting progressive causes and standing up for the oppressed because we have lived those same struggles. Our collective experience is one of oppression. Our position as a people before the founding of the state of Israel was extremely bleak. Jews came to Israel as refugees escaping anti-Semitism. This can be confusing, but Jews feel connected to Israel. The Hamas attacks on October 7th are a new deep memory in the long story of our people. There is a very specific history of anti-Semitism manifesting here. What's happening in Israel affects Jews all over the world. Jews everywhere feel isolated and unsafe, and this is a reasonable fear. To us, the attack by Hamas was not about Israelis or the Israeli government, it was about Jews. Even if that's not the case, to equate Benjamin Netanyahu or his policies with all Israelis is to equate Donald Trump with all Americans, or to equate Hamas with all Palestinians. Condemning Hamas is not a one-sided statement. In fact, failing to condemn Hamas is a catastrophic moral failing. There will never be a free Palestine as long as Hamas is in the picture.

As a white-presenting person in America, I want to recognize my privilege and use my voice to advocate for others. I resoundingly reject anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, or anti-Palestinian sentiments that you may interpret in my remarks tonight. I want to use my voice to help secure a world in which the safety and security of both Jews and Palestinians between the river and the sea is intertwined and guaranteed. But I need help doing it. We need to do it together. I remain confident that the Jewish people will demand that Israel create the conditions for a Palestinian state without Hamas, but only if Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist alongside of it. So I ask of you in this room, can you recognize Israel's right to exist? Please take care of yourselves and hope that we find peace.

2:57 Permalink

Marc Ashed

Thank you. On October 7th, 1,400 mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandmothers and grandfathers, woke up not knowing the horror that was ahead of them, not knowing that Hamas terrorists, whose stated goal is the destruction of the state of Israel and killing of all Jews in an unprovoked attack, would come pouring across the border arms with guns, knives, grenades, and embark on the worst killing of Jews since the Holocaust. Not knowing that some would be burned alive in their homes, babies beheaded, Holocaust survivors murdered, women raped, bodies desecrated. 220 woke up not knowing that they would be kidnapped, snatched from their homes and held hostage in Gaza by terrorists. That is what must be condemned. That is what leaders in the city have condemned, good versus evil, humanity versus inhumanity, and to quote Victor Frankl Holocaust survivor and famed psychiatrist, 'decent versus indecent'.

In keeping with that humanity, I want to extend my condolences and condemn the heinous murder of Wadea, the six-year-old child in Chicago who is guilty of nothing but his nationality. We should all condemn the senseless killing, just as we should all condemn what happened on October 7th. This is not a broader comment on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Hamas does not represent all Palestinians. This is about condemning pure unadulterated terrorism, that all who hold our values should condemn. There's no moral equivalence, no justification, no excuse for these actions. Resistance is not murdering babies in their crib in front of their parents. It is not killing parents before for their children.

[applause and chanting from outside chambers]

Resistance is not going door to door murdering, torturing, burning, and raping innocent civilians. Resistance is not holding hostages, including babies and people of more than a dozen nationalities, for 16 days. There's no equivalence.

McCormack: One second. Can we please shut the doors.

McCormack: Please proceed.

Speaker: At this moment standing with Israel and condemning Hamas terrorism is not ignoring the suffering of Palestinians. Hamas, the ruling authority in Gaza, has repurposed humanitarian aid, diverted food, water, and necessary goods from the innocent civilians in Gaza, to repurpose them in their terrorist forces. Only Hamas is what's responsible for Gaza.

For the Jewish community, the atrocities of October 7th painted a far too familiar picture, an atrocity for all to witness, a blood libel inciting violence against Jews and Israelis. And finally, we cannot ignore the calls from people that Israel and the Jewish state not defend itself. Israel was created so that Jewish security would never be in the hands of others again. Isaiah, our great prophet of peace, taught us nearly 3,000 years ago, for the sake of Zion, I will not be silent. For the sake of Jerusalem, I will not be still until her justice shines bright and her salvation glows like a flaming torch. Thank you, Mayor Bibb, Council President Griffin, Majority Leader McCormack, and many other members of this body for lighting a torch of truth and justice. Am Yisrael chai. The people of Israel live. Thank you.

3:32 Permalink