December 04, 2023

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Public Commenters (33 min)
Jenna Muhieddine  Christopher Hudson  Kameron Damaska  Basma Hamid  Julia Medina  Syed Shoaib Z Shah  Brian Duplaisir  Dana Bye  Michelle Jackson  Chance Zurub 

Jenna Muhieddine

At this point, after 7 weeks, you are inexcusable for ignorance, but many do not know the basic history.

Palestine prior to 1948 was not an empty land. Today, Israel has annexed and stole almost all of the land while murdering or displacing the native inhabitants illegally, violently, and forcefully, leaving just Gaza and parts of the West Bank for the Palestinians. Now, these are the murdered or injured Gazans. Take a look. There's 20,000 of these lifeless, bloody bodies, and 50,000 severely brutally injured without proper care. Imagine these were your children, or maybe even white children, because the almost immediate passing of a resolution condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine prove you all are not incompetent nor incapable of passing a resolution condemning genocide.

What type of hypocrisy, racism, and immorality must be harbored within a people to act so slowly in the face of unspeakable evil? I urge you all to think independently and understand this is not a war with terrorists, this is an ongoing genocide of Palestinians and ethnic cleansing under the mirage of self-defense.

Israel has been on the offensive since 1948. Look at the UN's definition of an occupying power. 20,000 murdered Palestinians in not even two months. What would you do? Think which nations and which histories back the settler colonialism, which nations call Hamas a terrorist group, and which nations have initiated wars and massacres on the basis of lies. Israel has broken dozens of international laws and resolutions. Think for yourselves. Who here would accept their kids being blown to bits? Their objective is not and was never Hamas, it is to systematically and violently eradicate Palestinians from their homeland. Statements that prove this include, 'the focus is destruction not accuracy', 'we will turn Gaza into an island of ruins', 'wipe out their families, their mothers, and their children', 'these animals must not be allowed to live any longer'.

This is what you should be scared of, Joseph Jones. Is this what you stand with, Mayor Bibb? Obviously you were all condemning in the strongest terms the Russian invasion of Ukraine on March 1st, 2022, but have yet to acknowledge that Israel has invaded Palestine and murdered 20,000 Palestinian civilians. And may there be everlasting shame on every racist [inaudible] in this room who believes in selective human rights and supports Israel's terrorist regime. Cleveland City Council what are you waiting for? Three students in Vermont were shot for wearing a keffiyeh. A hijabi woman in New York was beaten senseless in her place of work. A six-year-old boy was stabbed into his Chicago home. 100% of respondents to a CSU survey feel directly affected by the crisis overseas. So these are your damn people, and do your damn job. People are dying. It is time to pass a resolution asking for a ceasefire, which means an end to warfare from both sides. You have heard your own citizens begging you to make Cleveland safer for us and pass a resolution before more people are shot or stabbed.

Please get off your phone right in front of me. We are contributing members to the society and deserve to be acknowledged. We'll [inaudible], and that is a strong word, by God everybody here will ensure that none of you sitting here who ignored our cause, who did not advocate for ceasefire resolution will not see another term in office. Pass the resolution now. Free Palestine.

3:00 Permalink

Christopher Hudson

Good evening. I am here once again to demand that this Council issue a statement in defense of Palestinian children, their siblings, their mothers and fathers, and I am here because I must condemn Council's unwillingness to act, and its criminal obstruction of those who would call them to act.

Not only has this Council refused to pass any of the three resolutions calling for a ceasefire that had been presented to them and which have passed in other cities around the United States, they also seek to suppress further public calls for action, tactics which have resulted in a First Amendment lawsuit. Council members have also accused constituents of not really living in Cleveland, spouted racist tropes about bombs and mobs, threatened the movement with police violence, and dismissed our pleas for actions.

Despite these obstacles the community has continued to show up to these meetings week after week, and thousands have marched in the streets and attended demonstrations across our region. While the council has continued to ignore the popular will, a Palestinian business in Ward 6 has been the subject of harassment, and thousands more have been killed in Gaza by the genocidal Zionist campaign, and right now, Israel has demanded that Palestinians in Gaza keep moving south, farther away from their already leveled homes, indicating that the Zionist entity intends to add to the 20,000 Palestinians that they have already killed in the past 8 weeks.

So how many more weeks are we going to wait for the Jewish Federation to rubber stamp a watered-down version of the resolutions we have already presented to you? It bears noting that the Jewish Federation is based in Beachwood, not in Cleveland, which begs the question about council's other big donors. How many First Energy and Key Bank executives live in Cleveland? What about the Gilberts? And despite these outside influences on council, members of this body have hypocritically raised the spectre of outside agitators, a spectre that was originally conjured during the Hough uprising, and then revived during the 2020 uprisings, and is now being used against the current Palestinian movement. The only outside agitators in our city are the ones who, in return for a contribution to the Council Leadership Fund, are subsidized to loot our city. The only outside agitators in our city are the organizations who would dictate policy from outside its limits. The only outside agitators in our city are the would-be regional oligarchs and their lackeys who threaten, harass, and carry out violence against pro-Palestinian organizations and individuals right under Council's noses.

And all of this is a reflection of Zionism. Zionism subsidized by the United States loots Palestine and impoverishes Palestinians. Zionism dictates policy to Palestinians while insisting on a two-state solution, and with the United States' complicity, Zionism does not hesitate to use violence and threats against anyone that challenges it, down to the infants in Al-Shifa Hospital that the IDF left to die cold and alone. Our city council should recognize that there is only one outside agitator here in our city and across the world in Palestine, and that is Zionism and the imperialist class that funds and maintains its murderous regime. Joe Jones, if you want to apologize to the people behind me right now, introduce one of the three resolutions that we have presented to members of this Council tonight.

3:04 Permalink

Kameron Damaska

Evening, Council. At the last council meeting, there was an unprecedented number of police officers mobilized in City Hall. The front two rows were completely blocked off with caution tape, and attendees at that time reported a 1:1 ratio of police officers to citizens in the hall. It seems you all chose to do this again. This heightened police presence occurs amidst an ongoing crisis in Cleveland PD where 40% of the police officers have either resigned or quit since 2020, and you all are struggling big time to replace them. So my question for you all is what is the justification for this increased police presence?

My answer is that Joe Jones smeared the organized efforts of residents to support Palestine and to pass the ceasefire resolution. He slandered this movement as terrorists who will quote, 'put a bomb under his car'. He threatened to bring a gun to Council and he falsely claimed that there were threats to murder Justin Bibb.

Residents have been speaking out on Palestine for 2 months. The increased policing only came after these unsubstantiated and dangerous claims. This needs to be called out for what it is, false allegations which have mobilized police to intimidate political opposition. The fact that the police are mobilized to suppress political opposition is an ongoing problem, and exactly why Cleveland PD is in crisis right now.

Some historical context, the police were organized to suppress the black power political movement of the late '60s which targeted organizations in Cleveland such as the Republic of New Libya and the Black Panther Party. This was followed by 40 years of retaliation against the black community through the covert import of drugs, mass incarceration, and racist police terror. These conditions gave rise to protests against police brutality, culminating in the massive 2020 protests. The violent repression of those protests and subsequent shifts in public opinion has sent Cleveland PD into the crisis that we see today. It seems you all have learned absolutely nothing from this. The more you demand the police to go against public opinion, the fewer police you all will have next year. The more police are ordered to stand against political issues that are supported by the vast majority of young people, the more young people will refuse to be police officers.

All right, for the rest of my time I want to address an ongoing Zionist harassment campaign in the city which deserves far more attention, and police presence, than what is going on in this hall right now. A Zionist provocator named Alec Popivker has been harassing Palestinians for years with no real consequences. Cleveland State University tried to bring hate crime charges against him in January 2023 and he got off with no jail time. Since he was cleared in July, Popivker has had multiple police reports filed against him for hate crimes at Algebra Tea House, a Palestinian owned restaurant in Blaine Griffin's ward. Free Palestine.

3:06 Permalink

Basma Hamid

Good evening As-salamu alaykum Rest in peace, little ones, your messages is well heard.

Are you okay? I'm not. My days, my nights, my daily life is not the same anymore. I don't know about yours. Louis Farrakhan said, quote, 'there only can be no peace without justice, there can be no justice without peace, and the truth can be no truth unless someone rises and tells you the truth,' unquote.

The truth is here. There's a blind slaughtering machine operated by the gruesome Zionists, killing men, women, and children, left and right, every minute, every hour, and every day in Gaza and Palestine. What kind of society are we living in that allows such a horrific, inhumane, and horrible manslaughter in cold blood by those bloodsuckers occupying Palestine and Gaza, stripping Palestinians from their land, and their organs, putting them in prison, committing physical, sexual, mental, intellectual abuses against them day and night in front of the whole world's eyes. And once again, no one has the guts to condemn and stop these horrific daily activities. Where are your hearts? Is this a society of humankind, or a society made of stone? Palestinians go through their day not knowing if they are going to make it alive to the next minute, the next hour, or until the end of the day. The non-stop blind slaughter machine has been going on continuously for 75 years, and it's still going.

Rest in peace, little ones. Sorry there is no one available to bury you. This cruel, vicious, disgusting, inhumane world governed by the law of the jungle, won't allow you to live past the incubators. Your pure innocence was cut short and has been taken away without mercy by the blind slaughter machine ran by Israel, the United States, and the Free World. We will honor our murdered children, sons and daughters. Rest in peace, moms, dads, and grandparents, sorry no one is available to bury you. The society is so cruel and disgusting that we that we're murdered in cold blood by the blind slaughter machine without mercy. I don't want to see innocent lives suffer, and I think everyone else here agrees with me. Stop the genocide and pass the resolution. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. Thank you.

3:06 Permalink

Julia Medina

All right. Hello. I was born and raised here on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio. I am a humanitarian. Today I'm here to raise my concern about the United States of America financially and physically supporting Israel to commit war crimes just to accomplish the genocide of the Palestinian people, who don't even have an army, by the way, to protect them on their behalf.

Now coming into this world as part of the lower working class, I can firsthand testify to the true daily struggle of raising a child and barely making it by because of the cost of living, and the lack of help that the government provides financially. To find out my government cares more about land and oil than the lives of the civilians, and are willing to kill innocent civilians overseas for it, is beyond devastating to myself and thousands of others. Can anyone here explain to us how helping Israel commit war crimes and slaughter thousands of innocent civilians in Palestine is more important than what your civilians are going through here in the United States of America? How many homeless people do we have in Cleveland and the US but not enough resources for? How many veterans or ex-military have PTSD, no medical, no job, and again, not enough resources to actually help them due to lack of funds? But somehow we have enough money to aid Israel with billions. How is this possible? By taxing us, the civilians, and using our money to fund the slaughter, that is how this is possible, which we Americans are not okay with.

But I've heard our political leaders state that we, Cleveland, stand with Israel. I can assure you, we, Cleveland, and most of America, stand with Palestine and with humanity. We the people demand an immediate permanent ceasefire, and to bring all American soldiers home. We demand that our country leaders be held accountable as well as Israel for all of their war crimes against the Palestinian people. We demand a political solution, one that does not involve the killing of Palestinian civilians and stealing of their land over the rights to their to their oil and their trade routes, and of course, a political solution that will also end the killing of Jewish people on that side that are not part of the Zionists.

Times have changed. In the past, we believe that we was told because we didn't know better. In today's time, we have the ability to see the truth with our own eyes, and we see a repeat in history back to when Indians had their land stolen and was dehumanized and slaughtered for it. Had we the ability to know the truth back then, we too would have stood up and did the right thing as well, and now that we have that opportunity, we will not remain silent. We will not allow the political parties in charge currently to take away our right to freedom of speech. We already see it happening all over America, where people are being told that comparing Zionists to Nazis is going to be illegal and we can be incarcerated, or saying Israel is a terrorist state, but saying all Arabs are terrorists is not. Or that since we support Palestine, we are terrorists ourselves and should be deported. I am an American but yet I can be deported for not supporting the genocide? How does that make sense? How is that not violating freedom of speech? I can assure you no matter what ridiculous laws political members pass, we will be not be silenced. We will stand up for what's right. We will continue to protest until we are heard by our leaders. Thank you. Free Palestine.

3:06 Permalink

Syed Shoaib Z Shah

As-salamu alaykum. I see a lot of Muslims in here. I am here to talk about public health, you know, not a bait and switch. I know in 2020, the council passed a resolution proclaiming racism to be a public health crisis. And kinda since then, you know, what really progress has been made? I've been myself, I'm involved in charitable healthcare. I've been there for about, I want to say, the better part of half a decade to six years. And back then we're talking about a lot of good ideas, generating wealth, purchasing housing, creating career pathways and new industries to really help the community. And now what? You know, now, kind of like, look at what's going on. Groceries increased 30%, housing, what is it 25 in the last year or something, I don't know, even more over the past 3 years. But we're kind of doing it opposite, we're making it harder for home ownership, and we're not having affordable housing, and that's like a huge issue when we talk about social determinance of health. We talk about access to healthcare, you know, is what we work on in our organization.

And I know today, this morning, there was some push of funds towards various programs that are meant to help bolster social determinance of health in coordination with a lot of health partners in the local area. But when you kind of read into it, it's kind of more the same being pushed into various community centers for different things, and I think we really need to innovate in that sector, for the sake of our community. 'Cause when you look, we're kind of dealing with issues now, but when you look, you know, 5-10 years down the road, you know, we're going to hit a lot of problems. I see that time running. You know, I don't have any political ambitions and I'm pretty impartial when it comes to all this, but we can't wait for, I guess, politicians whose ambitions are kind of beyond Cleveland to help us out. We really need to be focused on what's going to happen now, what we can do now till 10 years down the road, we're not encountering even more issues when it comes to public health.

I have a lot of ideas. I would like to meet you, you know, I'd like to meet all the people on Council. Our clinic is located in ward 7, but we do different public clinics all around, and I'm not blind to what's going on in Palestine, but as the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wasallam, said, [Arabic speech], it means that patient, thoughtful deliberation is from Allah, and then hasty angst and, you know, kind of like doing things out of anger and hastiness is from the shaitan, from the devil.

So I don't have much to say regarding that today, but I do hope for peace and justice, and you know, may Allah bless those who are who are oppressed, and the Dua of the oppressed are always listened to. So thank you for your time. Again, I'm going to try to reach out to everybody. All right.

3:02 Permalink

Brian Duplaisir

I grew up knowing nothing about Palestine or the Palestinian people except for what the American news at the time told me. All I heard were things like Hamas, terrorists, and that Palestinian people were violent. In college, as part of a degree in disaster science management, I took some courses on counterterrorism and heard the same rhetoric. My baseline, like many people's today, was completely skewed, and then I met my wife. The first things I noticed about my wife was that she was kind, generous, intelligent, and full of joy. I also immediately knew she was Palestinian, because she's so proud of who she is, as so many Palestinians are. I could have not been luckier to meet my wife and have the immense honor to get beyond those stereotypes of Palestinians, and to even visit Palestine myself. The Palestinian people are far from what the media has told me, and after taking the time to actually invest in the knowledge of what it means to be Palestinian, there's more that meets the eye.

I bring that up today because now I am the proud father of two Palestinian Clevelander daughters, who, at the rate this conflict is going, may never be able to visit the ancestral home and witness the generosity and beauty of our people. And I say 'ours' because even though I grew up in Louisiana with no Arab heritage, my mother-in-law tells me I'm officially Palestinian now.

I know the conflict is happening across the globe from Cleveland, but that does not mean it doesn't touch our city lines. Your citizens, my people, have been coming here week in and week out telling you that they do not feel safe in this city because your silence allows hatred to be accepted. Your silence, the silence of our leaders, makes people feel like it is okay to be violent towards Palestinians, much like the men who were shot just for existing as being Palestinian, the six-year-old child that was stabbed for being Palestinian in Chicago, and even locally in your city, a Palestinian owner has had his establishment vandalized and harassed constantly. This is not unlike the silence and racism of our leaders on the federal government that allow the deaths of 5,000 Palestinian children in Gaza, or the imprisonment and torture of thousands of Palestinian children with no due process in the West Bank where there is no Hamas. I am not asking for you to solve 100 years of Palestinian dispossession, but I am asking you to make a statement that makes me, my wife, and my daughters, and everyone in this room feel safe, and like they belong here. We want to be seen, we want to be heard, and we want to do it without being persecuted.

Just saying that it is wrong to kill innocent Palestinian lives is not a political statement. It's not an 'us versus them' statement. It's a statement of human rights, and if there are people who are making it political to stand up for Palestinian humanity and dignity, maybe you should be questioning them why. Continue your silence and blank stares, and I promise each and every one of you here today that when elections come, if I don't feel safe, if I don't feel my daughters are going to be safe in this city, I will do everything I can ensure that y'all are not re-elected.

3:08 Permalink

Dana Bye

Good evening. My name is Dana Bye and I am a resident of Ward 15 and a third-year student at Cleveland State University College of Law, taking a break from studying from finals. Three years ago, my husband and I moved to Cleveland from DC. He was a native Clevelander, and I, a transplant from Minnesota.

Within a year of our arrival, this body made a pro- democracy change. It enacted public comment. With that effort opened up a new avenue for all Clevelanders to bring Council's attention to issues that may not have been on its radar and to amplify voices around people-first policies like wage theft and paid family leave.

But now, some on Council want to roll back public comment, to which I can only ask, what are you afraid of? As city council members, you have signed up to hear from all of the people, not just those who donate, not just those who march in parades with you. Sometimes the voices that make you the most uncomfortable are the voices you need to hear from the most. If Council decides to limit what it will hear during public comment, it will send a signal to the current and perspective Clevelanders that you have something to hide from the people, something to fear from the people. Neither of those are good outcomes for this city or for democracy.

When people rise to this mic to make public comment, they participate in our democracy. Don't let fear of what they might say force them back into silence. Thank you.

1:31 Permalink

Michelle Jackson

Thank you. Good evening. On November 7, Issue 38 came within an eyelash of winning, a people's budget for Cleveland residents, despite being outspent two to one by Council-led opposition. On November 8th, the next day, Council released a statement that read in part, 'Issue 38 revealed we need to do more work on civic engagement, participation, and awareness. We are indebted to you, the voters.' Then on November 13th, leadership called a caucus meeting with one urgent agenda item, neuter public comment before the end of the year.

Two years ago, a coalition of residents spanning the city urged for the adoption of a public comment ordinance. The legislation was thoroughly researched and crafted with the guidance of First Amendment scholars. It also prescribed how to deal with disruptors, and a system for limiting people to one comment every 30 days. Then-council president Kelly refused to even entertain the proposal, and instead had staffers throw together the rule now deemed unconstitutional by current Council President and his municipal lawyer.

Excuse me I have a bit of a cold.

In an era where far-right extremism is squashing speech from school boards to state houses, where is the line of defense from our local elected Democrats? Where is a commitment to expand democratic principles and values?

The proposed rule change portends an encroaching authoritarianism that places too much unchecked power in the hands of the presiding officer while also limiting speech to issues dictated by Council through its weekly meeting agenda. Already a First Amendment legal challenge is reportedly in the works based on action taken during public comment two months ago. I urge this body to reconsider its shift away from democracy by reconsidering the proposed changes to public comment now and by taking up the proposed legislation offered two years ago. We the people will not go away, and with each tear in the fabric of democracy in Cleveland, we come back reinforced. Without a serious shift in priorities, this body may find that its win on issue 38 by 1.78 percentage points was a [inaudible] victory that may cost much more in the long term than what was gained on November 7th, 2023. Thank you.

2:17 Permalink

Chance Zurub

My name is Chance. I'm a member of the Palestinian youth movement and the staff attorney at the Council on American-Islamic Relations here in Cleveland. For the past seven weeks, I've been one of the organizers in our coalition bringing the community out to City Hall, inviting them to engage in public comment and meeting with City Council members.

So on three separate occasions we have done your work, wrote out and proposed resolutions to this body, once on October 30th, again on November 13th, and lastly on November 30th. In these seven weeks, Council has sat on their hands failing to introduce a ceasefire resolution or even make a single amendment to the resolutions we've provided. Members of the City Council have routinely brought up that we have not denounced gun violence in the city of Cleveland, however, in the newest resolution we submitted, we included a portion denouncing violence within our own Cleveland communities and abroad, showing how the effects of gun violence and state violence affect all of us, from Cleveland to Palestine.

Instead, what we have received from City Council is complacency, attempts to limit public comment, council members on their phones disrespecting speakers, changing the admission time into City Council meetings from 6:00 to 6:30, and attempts to limit participation, lackluster apologies and Islamophobia directed at us. So I want to go ahead and say, and I believe I speak for all of us, that I do not accept the apology that was given last week by Joseph Jones. Any apology without our clear ask of introducing a ceasefire resolution on our community's behalf is not substantial. If you were truly apologetic and you were truly wanted to be accountable for your actions, you would have introduced the legislation that was sent to you directly via email from community members on November 13th.

Every day we are watching Palestinians being killed. The death toll is nearly 20,000 now. The occupation army has now started a ground offensive into the southern part of the Gaza Strip, where my own family lives, and I've lost 30 people in my family. The temperature is not cooling down. Discrimination against Palestinians in Cleveland and across the United States is going up. Students feel unsafe on campus and violence against those wearing keffiyehs just as this one are going up. This is the time for a resolution. The time started on October 16th when we first came and again on October 23rd, again on October 30th, again on November 13th, November 20th, November 27. And the time is now. As I finish, I want to pose the question to City Council, how many Palestinians need to die? How big does this genocide need to be, and how many members of my family do I need to lose before members of this Council will respond and introduce a resolution?

3:37 Permalink