January 22, 2024

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Public Commenters (32 min)
Kamal Alkayali  Riley Petro  Jenna Muhieddine  Yousef Khalaf  Juan C. Collado Diaz  Kayla Moss  Basma Hamid  Diana Sette  Khalid Hamdallah 

Kamal Alkayali

As-salamu alaykum everyone. My father, Ayman Alkayali, and I run Algebra Tea House in Little Italy. Algebra has been open for over 20 years. It has provided food, safety, and shelter for all. We are a hub for justice, love and community in Cleveland.

If you have watched the news you would know our business has been attacked nearly a dozen times by pro-Israel racist criminals, specifically one, being Alec Popivker, who has committed hate crimes against Palestinians in Cleveland for half a decade. He has stalked my family, harassed our community, and attempted to ruin our business. The same man that you allowed to speak on this podium while Council forces a disgusting amount of police to be here every Monday. You refuse to do your damn job by protecting constituents from this racist criminal.

Many council members have been to Algebra, and I would like to ask you, what have we done to deserve this? Is it because the blood that we bleed is Palestinian blood? Is it because the flag that we fly is the flag of justice and liberation? Is Algebra Tea House also an overseas issue? Your dangerous and ignorant rhetoric has ignited racist violence, so when we say you have blood on your hands, you all drip with the blood of Clevelanders as well.

Every person who sits behind me, you have wronged. We begged for three straight months for you to see our people as human, but we are done begging. Did you forget who you work for? We run this city. Next election we will elect our own candidates who seek justice and cannot be bought, and when we sit in your seats, we will show you what leadership is.

For some, this is your last chance to save your job by signing the ceasefire resolution, but for others, there is no saving you. Joe Jones has threatened my Palestinian brothers and sisters. You threatened our allies and it's clear you're an islamophobe. No amount of saving face will change that. Michael Polensek, you have accused us of baseless crimes. You are an islamophobe, and you are unfit for power, and I want to ask you, and please look at me, you coward, what the hell is anti-semitic about 30,000 Palestinians being slaughtered? You are gone. Justin Bibb, constituents have grieved their families, look at me please, constituents have grieved their families that have been slaughtered and starved by Israel, and you have conducted yourself every Monday in a manner that is no short of immature, inhumane, and disgusting. You support genocide. You support ethnic cleansing. You could care less about Cleveland, and your power is your only motivation. I know you have aspiring political ambitions and we will make sure that your political career ends right here for good. Justin Bibb, pack your damn bags.

And I will leave you with this. You will all sign a ceasefire resolution. We are done handholding you. We will tear down the corrupt politicians, we will tear down lobbyists, and the change that you fear is the change that we will make, and it all starts here. We are the majority. We hold the power, and we are getting stronger. So to all who stay silent or supported this genocide, by God, I dare you to run next election so you can see that when you stand with Israel you fall with Israel.

3:10 Permalink

Riley Petro

Thank you. Councilman, can you make sure that the people who are supposed to be facing us actually do that, for the record?

In the many weeks that citizens have been coming to council to urge you to pass a ceasefire resolution, we have heard a barrage of excuses as to why you will not take up this issue. One in particular, that the situation in Gaza has nothing to do with you.

I'm here today to address this point. Over the past week we've experienced terrible cold and snowy conditions. Many unhoused people are not allowed to stay in shelters during the day, and so the City providing warming centers is commendable, but why were they only open during prime retail hours beginning at 10:30 a.m. and then closed at 11:00 p.m., with no guarantee that those forced out would find shelter from the bitter cold overnight? How is this gesture no more than theater when the city can clearly do better? It is no surprise then that when the city does not have the willpower to provide the most basic resources to the most vulnerable in our community, it would also hold no compassion for the suffering people of Gaza, many of whom will themselves be killed, not due to the constant bombing, but from lack of food, medical care, and shelter, and yet this city is able to provide the largest hiring budget in its history to police force that terrorizes the homeless, that has trained with the Israeli occupation forces, and has used that training against nonviolent protesters.

In the safety committee meeting where this budget resolution was passed, Joe Jones made his now Infamous remarks that he needed to buy a gun because he was afraid that those of us coming to City Council in support of Palestine would put a bomb under his car. I ask you now, standing surrounded by police and in front of City officials more concerned about fruit than the will of its constituents, who is the real threat to this community?

As it stands now, over 1,600 signatures from community organizations. businesses, and individuals who live and work in Cleveland have been collected demanding you pass a ceasefire resolution. Unlike those of you on this Council who are so shortsighted to not see how our struggles are interconnected, everyone who has signed on to this letter recognizes an injury to one is an injury to all. Each excuse you make to not pass it becomes weaker and weaker by the day and we will not stand for it. Pass the resolution now and free Palestine.

2:47 Permalink

Jenna Muhieddine

As-salamu alaykum. When God was instructing Moses in the Quran, he told him to speak a gentle word to Pharaoh, because even the most evil of people can have a change of heart with some compassion. So I'm not here to yell at you all, rather I want to tell you a story.

This story is from the beginning of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza back in October. Hamza, a young boy, he was born in Gaza, and a year after he was born in 2009, his little brother was killed. In 2014, his father was killed. 2012, his older brother was killed, and then due to the severe trauma of watching his family perish one by one, Hamza became very close to his mom. Because his mama was the last surviving family member, she was his solace and comfort, and she was killed by an Israeli shelling in October. Hamza, at 14, then decided to end his own life, and he threw himself off a building in Gaza. He felt he was unable to live in this evil world anymore.

It did not start October 7th. The story of Hamza is the reality of 2 million, with everyone knowing someone who has been murdered by the Israeli forces. So now 30,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed, half being children. So passing a ceasefire resolution can bring hope to Gaza as many of us have had family there, and it will show where Cleveland actually stands. So council members, Council President, and Mayor Bibb, I ask you to stand up out of your seats if you condemn the murder of 30,000 Palestinian civilians, half being children. I ask you to stand up out of your seats.

[Audience Member]:You're not going to stand up?

[Commenter]: Nobody wants to stand up?

[audience interjection]

[Commenter]: Stop stop stop stop. [to audience]

[to council] I'm going to ask you again, stand up if you condemn the killing of men, women, and children. None of you condemn murder?

[audience interjection]

Okay, so I expected some of you to stand up, so the speech won't make sense now, but you guys are literally sitting after asking if you condemn murder, so there we have it. I mean City Council doesn't condemn the murder of men, women, and children, like, I don't even know what to say. I really thought someone would stand up.

So anyway, please understand we're watching the second major massacre of our people for the second time, with the first directly affecting all of our families. It's dehumanizing, our leaders watching this community in pain and struggle and doing absolutely nothing, and now it's clear it's simply because we are Arab. You passed a resolution for Ukraine within a month. Save Gaza. Pass the resolution now. And I want to ask one more time. Stand up if you condemn murder.

3:05 Permalink

Yousef Khalaf

Good evening. My name is Yousef Khalaf. I was born and raised in Cleveland. I'm a CMSD graduate. I'm also currently an undergraduate, a student studying at Case Western Reserve University, Mayor Bibb, you're alma mater. At Case, under President Eric Kaler's administration, we've witnessed a disturbing trend, a climate of hostility and hate towards Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and other people of color. This environment has escalated to the point where black and brown people face death threats, harassment, and attacks on campus simply for speaking up against the genocide and apartheid.

But that's not what I'm here to discuss. Instead, I'm here to address another pressing concern, the failures of this City Council and our disgraceful mayor to serve and protect their constituents effectively.

First I want to say I don't I don't commend Councilwoman Jenny Spencer and Councilwoman Rebecca Maurer for their social media statements calling for a ceasefire, you're just as dishonorable and treacherous as the rest of the people sitting here in this chamber. Your words ring hollow. They mean nothing if you don't actually do the right thing and introduce it and call for its passing. It's less than the bare minimum, what you did. I hope you're not proud of that.

The US government annually allocates at least $3.8 billion to Israel which translates to over $6 million coming from Cleveland taxpayers, federal tax dollars that Cleveland, your residents, pay that every year. Since 2019, this sum has been consistent and will continue until the year 2028. In total, the US has provided Israel with $124 billion in military aid since 1946. This translates to hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars coming out of your constituents' pockets to fund genocide and apartheid. With Cleveland being the second poorest large city in the United States and having the highest child poverty rate, imagine what that amount of money can do to solve the real issues of the many problems that plague this city's residents. Do you even care?

In 2022, you swiftly responded to Ukraine 4 days after the invasion, and you condemned it, and even Michael Polensek said he condemns the killing of innocent men, women, and children. Where is the same condemnation for Palestinian lives lost? Council, why is Palestine any different then Ukraine? Tell me, are you scared to lose your jobs? Are you scared to piss off your donors? Is that what this is all about, or do you actually think it's okay to slaughter innocent children and infants? Tell me.

The city charter does not even require a ward council member to live in his or her ward to seek election to represent it, so some of you don't even live in your respective wards, but you're telling us what your constituents want. You have some nerve. You all are disgusting, disgraceful, tone-deaf, and out of touch with your constituents. The people have woken up, and we will not stand for this any longer. We're no longer asking, we're no longer requesting, we're only demanding. We will take the appropriate direct actions to get you to do your jobs, but this corruption, this negligence, this inaction has gone on for too long, even way longer than three months I've been in this. I was born in this city, decades this corruption is going on. You all have seem to forgotten that we the people have the power and you work for us. I suggest you start your editing your resumes and fixing them, because you're going to lose your jobs immediately, but no one's going to hire you because your resumes have blood all over them, from the children of Cleveland and the children of Palestine. Blood on all of your hands, not just Palestine, Cleveland as well. You've done nothing. Free Palestine.

3:27 Permalink

Juan C. Collado Diaz

Good evening, everybody. So I'm going to give you the right number, 32,246. That's the number of people that have been killed as of January 19. Those are the people that you all didn't stand up for. Just give that- let's just put that on the record. 12,660 out of those were children. But you guys are more worried about this, [commenter holds up an apple] which clearly in the in the book of Genesis, the Bible that many of you follow, says that God created this to be eaten. Councilman Polensek, please turn around and look at the people, pay some damn respect. This is what you are afraid of, damn fruit. They were created to be consumed. It's not contraband as you all claim. But instead, you spend your time threatening us, spending time on social media releasing useless statements that are not being put here in front of the people. We are tired of this. As an ally, I am tired of listening to you guys every Monday creating ridiculous rules, closing the front rows because you all feel threatened by us. What about us is a threat? What about the people behind me? It's a damn threat because they're not the same as you? Is that the threat? Is that how we feel, that every Monday we have to sit here and give you the same talk. Every single Monday, and you guys don't do anything. But for Ukraine, you guys release a statement in less than 4 days. You see the hypocrisy of every single one of you. Next year is an election year for all of you in here, and if I see a statement by that time, so help me God that I'm going to make sure that neither of you get elected, and I'm going to make sure that I give you hell during your campaigns. Because this is tiring. It is tiring to have you 20th century politicians managing 21st century issues, and even a 20th century issue, because this is over 70 year old issue, and you guys cannot release a statement?

Mayor Bibb, when you got elected, you say you were here for the people, the people of Cleveland. Cleveland has one of the largest populations of Middle Eastern Palestinians and you're still not supporting those people. You still sit there and literally when you were asked if you condone those stat, you just sit there and do nothing. You feel shame of yourself you feel ashamed that when you got into office you promised to support the people of Cleveland, and you didn't.

Lastly, before I go, Councilman Blaine Griffin, I sent you an email a couple weeks ago about this coward over here, Richard Starr, who threatened me on the internet, and you has not replied to me. Literally a little coward over here that has to go behind social media to threaten people online over a simple, stupid message. So if you get a chance, please give me a call, you have my number. All of you do. So good night.

3:00 Permalink

Kayla Moss

As you said, I'm here to talk about Black History Month which starts next week. We will spend the next month talking about our ancestors with the reverence they deserve. I would like to point out that those of us who are black in this room are creating black history as we stand here today.

With that being said, I would like to start by giving a brief black history lesson. On August 15th, 1967, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee printed a newsletter talking about The Six-Day War. They talked about the history of how the state of Israel came about, by British colonial forces in 1917. This didn't start on October 7th. They recognized and identified with the Palestinian people as the US and other white Western countries exploit and control the nations of Africa and the Middle East. Reverend Jesse Jackson during his presidential campaigns tried to work toward getting the Palestinian Liberation Organization a seat at the table to negotiate with the US directly. In an interview with Journal in 1985, when asked about the black Americans awareness of the similarities of apartheid South Africa and apartheid Palestine, Jackson said, and quote, 'There is a substantial awareness of it. We understand life under occupation because we've been occupied. We understand the violent nature of occupation. Those who will fight against the occupation here will be called militant. Those who will fight against the occupation there will be called terrorists. This the fact is, as long as you have an occupy or occupied relationship, you have a violent relationship,' end quote.

During the Black Lives Matter protests in the past decade, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank taught protesters how to combat the effects of tear gas by militarized police. There are murals of George Floyd all over Palestine. I say all this to say that there's long been solidarity between the black community and Palestinian-Americans and all throughout the world. This Council that represents one of the blackest major cities is currently acting against what many of our ancestors rally for. I'm shamed by the dog whistles by Councilman Joe Jones and Councilman Michael Polensek as these are things we as black people have experienced firsthand. Not picking a side because of the fear of losing donors is cowardly. The citizens of Cleveland deserve better leadership. We should not have to use the martyred people of Palestine to persuade you. The fact that it's been over 100 days and you've ignore your constituents is disgraceful. I'm not here to just remind you that this didn't start on October 7, but officially 1917. I am here to demand that you honor our ancestors for Black History Month by standing at solidarity with Palestinians, by doing the bare minimum and calling for a ceasefire. If not, we will not only remember the Nakba of 1948, but we will also remember this moment as we speak about your reelection dates. We do not need people in City Council who don't reflect our humanity. Don't celebrate Black History Month in vain.

3:13 Permalink

Basma Hamid

Good evening, as-salamu alaykum. Being a child care provider for 25 years, my heart is broken to witness the lives of innocent men, women, and children slaughtered in cold blood on the streets in Gaza and Palestine for the past 75 years. If you have any type of any human consciousness, you will do whatever you can to stop this ethnical cleansing genocide and massacres committed every day against helpless, innocent, defenseless people of Palestine, by the murder of Netanyahu and his regime.

When children in Gaza and Palestine asked what do they want to become when they grow up, their answer comes, 'I don't know because I don't know if I'm going to grow up with the occupation of my land.' If you are a real human who has a heart with feelings and really care about humanity and protecting your humankind, nothing, and I say, nothing, should stop you from supporting humanity in Gaza, to stop the genocide committed against Palestinians in Gaza and Palestine. You all owe it to yourselves. It is inhumane to support the regime led by cold blood killers of Palestinians in Gaza and Palestine.

Let me tell you a story told by an eyewitness about a woman who went to the bakery to get bread to feed her hungry kids so they don't die of starvation. An inhumane Zionist of Netanyahu's regime, snipers, shot her to death in the head on her way back while holding the bread in her hand, and never made it back to her children. Children in Gaza and Palestine love life and have dreams like other children around the world, and would love to grow up and follow their dreams in becoming true, to be doctors, teachers, and engineers. Is that a privilege or a necessity? Life to all children around the world is a necessity, regardless of colors, nationality, religion, and must be always provided and supported by everyone here on the planet, and taking it away is a red line and should be punishable by law.

Hospitals, schools, mosques, roads, universities are continuously being bombarded day and night. There is no electricity, water, food, or medicine. Life is hell to all people. Nothing is functioning at hospitals in Gaza. The media all over the world, including the US, is backed and supported by the Zionist blood money. They switch the facts into lies and turn the public opinion to be on the oppressor side. Now the public is awakening and realizing the difference between the oppressed and the oppressor. Why do you think Netanyahu is refusing a Palestinian state now? The truth is that showing that his true colors providing Israel, an apartheid state committing genocide. Whether you like it or not, Palestine will be free from the [inaudible, audience chanting]

3:30 Permalink

Diana Sette

Hello, my name is Diana Sette. I'm a mother and resident of Ward 15, formerly Ward 4, and work in a children's hospital. For the past 108 days, I have witnessed my tax dollars be used to devastate the Palestinian healthcare system. There are six ambulances remaining in Gaza to serve over 2.3 million people, half of whom are children, the massacres in Gaza are so high, a brand new medical acronym has been created, WCNSF, 'wounded child no surviving family.' There are now more than 25,000 new orphaned children since October 7, with more than 10 children a day losing either one or both of their legs, with many amputations performed without anesthesia. Miscarriages have increased by 300% since October 7th, with many of the 50,000 pregnant Palestinians enduring C-sections without anesthesia. Can you stop and imagine for just a second what it might look like to have an amputation or a C-section without anesthesia? If so, you wouldn't hesitate to call for a ceasefire. More than 30,000 people have been killed and missing, including more than 12,000 children in just 2 months. And for reference, in Ukraine, over 500 children have been killed in 2 years, and you easily passed a resolution around that issue.

So why hesitate now? We're left to wonder if City Council is prioritizing a perceived political and economic game of making deals with exploitative billionaire war profiteers like TransDigm, housed in the US Bank Plaza, with founders acting as board members and donors for major institutions in Cleveland. Maybe it's more important to have high-profile genocide funding friends like Black Rock, keynote speaker at Greater Cleveland Partnerships Sustainability Summit tomorrow, as if The Guardian didn't just release a report revealing Israel's ecocide, and how in the first months of the Black Rock-backed bombing campaign, the state of Israel has produced more planet- warming gases than 20 climate-vulnerable nations do in a year. It should not be hard to stand behind nonviolence, but maybe it's more important for you all to prioritize the millions of philanthropic funds tied to the state of Israel that flow through almost every nonprofit and institution in this city.

As MLK Jr said, 'there comes a time when one must make a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must make it because conscious tells him it is right', and I will tell you that you can pretend that calling for a ceasefire is out of your purview, is some international policy, but we all know a ceasefire, or lack thereof, can be felt on every single street of this city, a city whose people have experienced medical apartheid, where racism is a public health crisis, and we have one of the nation's highest mortality rates for black babies. Stand up against racism, against apartheid, against genocide, stop prioritizing profits over people. To Council, every single death is on your hands. Every single day that you fail to use every single ounce of your power to call for a fire and an end to the brutal apartheid that the Palestinians have been 76 years, just know we are all Palestinians. Palestine will be free. Palestine will live forever. Thank you. [Applause]

3:12 Permalink

Khalid Hamdallah

As-salamu alaykum. My name is Khalid and I've been a proud Northeast Ohio resident for over 25 years, and for the last three years I've been happy to call Ohio City home.

While you guys have rightfully been getting dragged for the last three months, I come today with a different type of message. I'm not going to bore you with the numbers on how many children have been killed and maimed, about how many families have been displaced as part of a greater fascist ethnic cleansing movement, about how many face imminent starvation and disease due to the blockade on humanitarian aid and resources, a move backed by our federal government.

Before October I, like so many others in the diaspora, struggled being a Palestinian American living every day with the survivors guilt in a country hellbent on passing and enforcing policies aimed at dehumanizing us and erasing our experiences. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, at times leaving me hopeless and isolated. But that weight has now been shared by so many others, and ironically it's made me stronger. Look around this room. You seem to think that the issues in Palestine are reserved for Palestinians only but the people who vote for you, or don't, believe otherwise. We've packed this hall every week with Jews, Christians, Muslims, and non-religious people alike. We are not bound to this cause by race, religion, or creed, but rather by a belief that all people deserve to live in liberty, safety, and dignity. This is a human issue. Rather than listening to your constituents and engaging with them honestly, you have in fact done the opposite, complaining about our presence here and working to limit our ability to make public comment. You feign fears for your safety despite a 1:1 ratio of police and law enforcement present.

But through your silence, we hear you, and in return we promise to loudly speak the language you value most, votes.

I thank you for your open face hypocrisy, for talking the talk but failing to walk the walk, for showing us what we need to do as a community to make real change.

In the past 3 months, we've rallied around you, we've organized in a way I never knew was possible. The greater Cleveland community is more engaged than ever. We've registered more people to vote in the last 3 months than in the last three cycles before it, and we have you to thank for that. And I also wanted to apologize, for you are on borrowed time. The citizens of Cleveland will speak loudly at the next election cycle, and the next one, and the next one and every single one after that. We will empower and elect our own officials, ones who genuinely serve the interests of their communities. I leave my people with a quote, 'you cannot wait on the courage of cowards'. Thank you.

2:30 Permalink