March 04, 2024

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Public Commenters (32 min)
Rev. Pamela Pinkney  Dominique Brooks  Katrina Robinson  Tanmay Shah  Nicholas Marshall  Wendy Bilgen  Sara Fadlalla  Riley Petro  Chris Martin  Reverend Evan Regis Bunch 

Rev. Pamela Pinkney

Good evening. Good evening. First of all, let me give you what the Lord gave me to give you, Council President. No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that rises up against you, even among your members, that are betraying you, shall be condemned. This is the heritage of the servant of the Lord Our God, and his righteousness is of you. The God of America is Jesus Christ, a man of color. The goddess of America would be Jesus Christ, too, a woman of color.

This is not a peaceful assembly, what's going on right now. The disrespect that took place in this room last week and in this building is not acceptable, and it's not tolerable, and not to be tolerated. It's only happening because you have a black man in that seat up there. This racism in this country, in this nation, is off of the chart. You have a black mayor, and you have a a brown skinned man up there, because had brown- skinned, black, or multi-racial, Native American people been doing what they're doing out there, what those white people are doing out there, we would have a crime charged against us. Back off the black man. We have rules in this country. We have laws in this country. I don't care if you wear dashiki, I don't care what you wear, we have rules in this Council, and I demand that you obey them. The God of America, Jesus Christ, who comes through the lineage of Abraham, which is through Isaac, not Ishmael. Allah is not our God. This stuff stops now.

I've already called Council President. I call the United States Department of Justice but they're not going to do anything because Ahasuerus, Nebuchadnezzar, Ahab, and Jezebel are running the country right now. Because if you notice that all the black leadership in this country is under attack by racist, sexist, White America. Follow up with the phone call. I also called the FBI but they didn't want to have the conversation. Because if we did this in Bratenahl, Parma, Solon, Pepper Pike, we would be arrested and charged with a crime. But it's called civil when a white person does it. Stop disrespecting that man, and don't threaten me again with the police. I said when I meant and meant when I said, there's no white privilege. We operate on divine favor as people of color in this city, in this nation, and in this county. And if you don't like it, it's too bad. Back off of Council President Griffin, and don't you ever again come in here and disrespect him like that. I don't care who you are.

2:43 Permalink

Dominique Brooks

Hello, how's everybody doing. Good. All right. My name is Dominique Brooks. For background information, I am a single mother to three children and I attend Cleveland State University. I was selected in January of this year to receive housing through Cleveland Housing Partners and CMHA housing program for the Louise Stokes Scholar Housing program. After going through a preliminary application with screening questions and receiving help with the application process by several CHN employees, I was chosen to receive a home visit by a CHN employee to examine my current living situation. I was told before my home visit, CMHA will not give me an apartment for my family because I have a boy and a girl that can't share a room, and they only have two bedrooms.

It's one thing to be denied after the preliminary screening, but to give my personal information and my baby's personal information up only to be denied, that should have been disclosed to me after the preliminary application process, which has me wondering, why did they accept our application? And then when I asked for the regulations that I violated, showing me the proof, I was told over the phone by the Assistant Director of CHN Housing Partners this is a HUD rule, and in my research this is not a HUD rule. There's no law under HUD that states such things. So why am I being denied housing for me and my three children for a law that does not even exist? Why do me and my children have to to be turned away from housing for that reason? Who's helD responsible for auditing and following up with applicants that are mishandled? All I'm asking is for A safe, affordable housing for my family while I earn my degree. Thank you.

1:59 Permalink

Katrina Robinson

My name is Katrina Robinson. I'm here to speak about me going through Cleveland Housing Network. I was a homeowner in 2001. I went through the Cleveland Housing Network program. I was suggested as a single parent that you could get housing.

Moving forward, I lived in the house up for 21 years. During Covid, I got attacked, only to find out that the deeds were placed. I was pushed out during Covid. The Sheriff Deed that I printed, that was certified, was fraud. I found out that just recently that the sheriff in the county didn't exist. I found out, as I was going through federal court and the judge was allowing me to represent myself, cuz I couldn't find a lawyer for the last 7, 8 years, that I had a case. That I had to write and that the federal judge in 2008 had announced that I was the owner of the home through my Warranty Deed that I got from Cleveland Housing Network.

I noticed as I started doing my deep research that my taxes were paid in California. Bank America took over, which originally when I did in 2001 was Countrywide Mortgage. I never received a notice that it changed over, but thank for God that I had the background in mortgage finance and I had a degree in business and finance. I was able to research and go deeper in. We were trained how to identify fraudulent documents. I was able to gather every document to figure out what was the cause, and I found out that it was an estimate of 15 people from PH Mortgage that was from Chicago to California, to Florida, New York, who have worked together to withhold our rights within Cleveland, our home. I, during the process, on the side, would help people understand, hey you have a right to protect your right, and I realize that I have more right than I have. I was so upset during Covid, I filed a 50-page manifest, whatever you want to call, about how it was 140 ways that someone within this city could have helped me. 140 laws and the only law that I got was a foreclosure law that made me look like I didn't pay my bills, made me look like that I was just this crazy woman. I was placed in the psych ward. I looked like I was this crazy mad woman who literally stood every single day, sat in the modification rooms, sat there waiting for people, no show of anybody and still they pushed through Covid. All these fraudulent documents that came from someone in the city, and if you went to the County website, I'm told, oh what you're going to do about it, and I'm like, if you read this Sheriff Deed, it says that whoever took the house have a right in the laws, follow that.

So meanwhile, I'm sitting here homeless on the street, home boarded. My grandmother told me just before she passed, hey Katrina, the governor came out to your house. They were told by the bailiff, I didn't even get evicted by the Sherrif, I got evicted by someone in the City of Cleveland bailiff. The bailiff now. If you look up my name, the file disappeared, documents disappear to PH Mortgage. Thank goodness that I was very organized and I had a mentor who was in federal government when I was a teenager who taught me how to notarize, keep paper trails, because she told me in 2003 that we were going to face in the future a lot of fraudulent document, and what you would need to know is how to prepare those documents during that program.

And I graduate from Tri-C. I was the youngest at that point, I was like 18 at the time. Didn't think it was important. Now realize today it is more important. So thank you.

3:15 Permalink

Tanmay Shah

Good evening my name is Tanmay Shah and I'm a resident of Cleveland's Ward 16. I would just like to start off with Martin Luther King quote, 'we do not need allies more devoted to order than to justice.' He wrote this in the spring of 1964 from the jail in Birmingham.

I would like to also start off by thanking Council President Blaine Griffin. Your courageous and brave actions of staunchly defending a genocide deserves a round of applause. Your statement from a couple weeks ago calling on both sides to come to a common ground was obviously political theater and meant to further divide the Cleveland community.

Ironically, that statement and this council's refusal to do its job has brought together this community better than any resolution ever could.

As I speak, the citizens of Cleveland are doing your job for you in the rotunda through the People's Council, and I want the record to reflect this was a peaceful assembly and they were kicked out against their rights to peacefully assemble on public property.

A lot has been already said about Palestine and your complicity in genocide. Palestinians have tried to educate you, meet with you, and attempted to do this the right way for the last 15 weeks. I'm certain your job isn't easy. Cleveland has been losing people and revenue for years. You're asked to do more with less each year. I'm certain your bravery in doing nothing will help attract new citizens. We the citizens asked a very simple thing, though you pass a resolution in support of Israel, Ukraine, even a resolution to commemorate the band KISS, it cost the city nothing. What excuse do you have for your failure? Leaders are supposed to lead, take risks in order to achieve a better world. When history looks back, you'll be remembered as a city council that ignored a genocide against the will of over 80% of Americans.

I want to address a different angle, one that concerns your political future, since that's all you seem to care about. All of you are up for reelection next year. We're committed to doing everything in our power to make sure you are held accountable for your inaction. Your anti-democratic methods ranging from what happened to PB Cleveland to your animosity of NEOCH has already galvanized people across the city who care deeply about this work. So when you go to bed tonight, other than council member Rebecca Maurer, I want you to ask yourself, when push comes to shove, will Blaine Griffin stand with you and use the Leadership Council Fund to protect himself, or protect your future? It is never too late to do the right thing.

I want to end with some advice for Council President Griffin. You should run to the people who work for you, like Jimmy Haslam and Dan Gilbert, and the billionaires in this city. Ask them for more money, cuz we're coming for you, and you can build your war chest, but you can't stop us. Free Palestine.

3:11 Permalink

Nicholas Marshall

As-salam alaikum. My name is Nick Marshall. I used to be a raging racist, unfortunately, and homophobe, and transphobe, and xenophobe, and all the phobes. I used to think Muslims were terrorists and Israel was the bastion of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. I was a Christian in name, but in reality, my values didn't align with my proclaimed beliefs. I was a hypocrite. I went to college, I got out of my suburban bubble, learned how to read through sources. I learned how to critically think, and I had to do the hard work of unlearning a lot of what I had learned. I had to take responsibility for my own willful ignorance. I had to break down everything I thought that I knew and reevaluate all my previously held beliefs. In this process I found Islam, a religion of radical accountability. This brings me to my main point, and the reason I tell you about my disgusting past is accountability.

You are accountable for your sources and education. Do you follow Palestinian voices? Do you look at the gut-wrenching pictures, even though they're so hard to see? Do you learn about the history of self- immolation as a form of protest? Do you learn about the history of apartheid Israel in systems of oppression? So you learn about America's litany of war crimes?

Experiential knowledge of deconstructing prejudices and firmly held beliefs. There are two types. We have explicit prejudices which this Council has displayed, such as putting bombs in their car, Palestinian Hamas community, Genocide Mike. We also have implicit prejudices, which are much harder to acknowledge and can be uncomfortable to sit with. They're sneaky patterns of thoughts and assumptions. We've seen that with calling it the Israel Hamas war, with the great persimmon scandal, and ignoring thousands and thousands of hostages taken by Palestine. None of us want to be here protesting. We're here because we wake up in the morning thirsty. All we can think about are Palestinians without water. When we're hungry, all we can think about are starving Palestinians getting slaughtered as they go for aid. When I pick up my daughter, all I can see are Palestinians holding their deceased children and crying. We can't move on to local issues that I would love to address, like CMHA, and some of our policies for low-income that do nothing for low-income people. But we can't move on to that until we can agree the genocide is wrong and we should have a ceasefire. We are accountable for what we can do. We cannot individually end this conflict but we are responsible for the actions we take. But we are also responsible for the actions we don't take. You must do the hard work of deprogramming and proper re-education. What we can do is what we must do. You have the resolution in front of you. Inaction can be just as consequential as action. Struggle in the cause of justice.

3:08 Permalink

Wendy Bilgen

Good evening. My name is Wendy. As a longtime Jewish Clevelander, I am still calling on you, City Council, to pass an emergency permanent ceasefire resolution. Suspend the rules if you must tonight.

In the week since 25-year-old active duty member Aaron Bushnell's self- immolation and protest against Israel, his final words still haunt me. He wrote on Facebook that 'many of us like to ask ourselves what would I do if I was alive during slavery or the Jim Crow south, or during South Africa's apartheid. What would I do if my country was committing genocide? The answer is, you're doing it right now.' end quote. His meaning was clear to me. If I do nothing in response to the genocide of Palestinians right now, I have my answer about how I might have responded to other historical human rights atrocities. Amidst the muddled media debates over whether Aaron's actions were heroic or insane. We miss the unmistakable reality that his actions were born of desperation. His desperation matches the urgency of the moment to elevate the voices of the desperate in Palestine, and to act on their behalf. We do not need to agree on everything, but we do agree on some things, so let's act together tonight.

Do we agree that the killing of innocent people and acts of unbridled revenge as we are seeing in Gaza is wrong? Do we agree that endless cycles of oppression and killing must stop? Do we agree that we have the power to stop ongoing atrocities? It's our responsibility to do so. I'm asking you tonight to use your platform and your position of power given by the citizens of Cleveland to pass an emergency ceasefire resolution tonight. Suspend the rules. If you don't have the words tonight, you can use these, whereas all human life is precious and the targeting of civilians no matter their faith or ethnicity is a violation of international humanitarian law and a violation of who we are as cross-cultural diverse people of Cleveland and a city deeply affected by the killings in Gaza and Israel. Be it resolved that City Council on behalf of the people of Cleveland call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, a release of all hostages and wrongly detained Palestinians, and an immediate establishment of humanitarian corridors to bring aid to the people of Gaza.

President Griffin, I encourage you to hearken back to your Quaker educational roots at Malone, where I also graduated, and to draw inspiration and courage from that rich tradition of nonviolence and radical social action. Let me bring us back to the question Aaron Bushnell left us all with, what would I have done in the face of historic injustice? You all have a rare opportunity now to use your authority to send a clear message that Cleveland will not support the murder of innocents, so that when you look back on this moment in history, you will be able to say I stood up for justice and I refuse to be complicit in genocide. Thank you for hearing me. Remember to suspend the rules.

3:05 Permalink

Sara Fadlalla

Hello my name is Sara Fadlalla, and I'm here to urge City Council to choose humanity and call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Palestine is a black liberation issue. Palestine is a feminist issue. Palestine is a healthcare issue, and especially, Palestine is a humanitarian issue.

As members of the council, you claim to support initiatives for food programs, safety, and maternal outcomes. youth development, health, and health access, all of which are being ruthlessly attacked and targeted in Gaza right now. Our taxes which are meant to fund these local initiatives are being reallocated away from development and funding destruction. Many have heard this quote before, but I would be remiss if I did not repeat what Nelson Mandela said on this issue, 'we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.' The initiatives we support locally will always be at risk when our federal government continues to prioritize destruction, death, and genocide over community building, so it's our job as constituents to demand our representatives use their voices to fight for justice, liberation, and a ceasefire to end the onslaught of devastation we are funding. If that logic alone doesn't push you into moral obligation, then I urge you to visualize the despair. Since the start of this genocide, 30,534 people were killed, meaning if we filled the Guardians stadium almost to the brim and wiped out that population we would have only just begun to understand the gravity of this assault. 12,300 of those killed have been children. Imagine filling the Wolstein Center with children from a field trip and erasing those in attendance in under 5 months. And now think of our beloved Browns Stadium completely packed with another 4,000 people on the field and understand that that's the number of innocent lives injured in this genocide. And finally to really bring home the horror, the city of Cleveland is about 82 square miles with a population of 2.18 million people now. Imagine the entire population of Cleveland forced to live in concentration camps in a quarter of the space, no clean water, limited access to healthcare, food, basic aid, and now you start to understand what's happening to the Palestinians trapped in Rafah, an area of 25 square miles with 2 million held captive and being bombed endlessly.

Sometimes being forced to empathize and think about how it would be for you in your own city can ignite a sense of standing up for what's right. Our revered activist Angela Davis put it plainly by saying 'lifting our voices for Palestine will never be anything but an embracement of love and justice for all.' Speak for justice and love, and that starts with a call for a ceasefire and allow humanitarian aid to reach those who need it desperately. And finally, I need to say that our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, 'whoever among you sees evil let him change it with his hand. If he cannot do so, then with his tongue. If he cannot do so, then hate it in his heart, which is the weakest level of faith.' Let us showcase our faith in God, in our humanity, in each other, and stand firmly on the right side of history. Free Palestine. Ceasefire now.

3:01 Permalink

Riley Petro

Decorum. The Council President is obsessed with this concept. He stated over and over again that decorum needs to be preserved at City Council meetings. Why, when the people of Cleveland come to their representatives and ask them to acknowledge the death of over ,000 men, women, and children, some of whom are their own relatives, and Council sits silently. Why should we show you any respect or decorum, when council members lie and say we're not from this city, that we're going to put bombs under their car, or throw tomatoes at them during Council meetings, without any evidence. What respect have you earned?

The fact is, Council President, you don't want decorum or respect, you want obedience. You yourself said back in 2019 that we need, quote, 'we need to send a strong message that when you mess with us you will be dealt with', unquote. It's clear from your words and your actions that you are a petty tyrant that can't stand to see his authority challenged, and also doesn't know basic procedure about how to pass an amendment.

Well, I'm sorry to tell you this but we're not going anywhere, and let's face it, I know that you know that public disruption is a valid act of protest. Councilman Conwell said so himself last week when he talked about the idea of disrupting school board meetings in order to reinstate the Get More Opportunities Fund back to our students at CMSD, thanks Bibb, to which I say, 'sign me up'. The people in this room stand for the children of Cleveland and the children of Palestine because our struggles are one and the same, but if we're willing to stand with this city, why aren't you willing to stand with us? I want to end my time by quoting the same thing written by Aaron Bushnell, the enlisted Air Force officer who found that self-immolation in front of the Israeli embassy was the only way to get people like you to pay attention to what's going on in Gaza, that was quoted earlier. 'Many of us like to ask ourselves what would I do if I was alive during slavery or the Jim Crow south or apartheid, what would I do if my country was committing genocide? The answer is, you're doing it right now.'

2:37 Permalink

Chris Martin

Good evening, Council President Griffin. The last time I spoke here, you cut off my mic while I engaged in protected speech by listing some amounts of money each counselor has accepted from the Council Leadership Fund. Most have taken thousands of dollars from the Council Leadership Fund. That night, you did not allow me to list any of the donors to the Council Leadership Fund. These include many millionaires and billionaires giving tens of thousands of dollars every year to the Council Leadership Fund.

Since then, I sued you over your public comment policies. City Council has amended those policies, and the city has agreed to a judgment in my favor. The city will pay me $500 and reasonable attorneys fees for the privilege of avoiding having to litigate the constitutionality of your actions. I hadn't yet returned to this body for further public comment because you only allow 10 people to speak each week and I hadn't been quick enough to sign up when I tried, plus the money and politics point I had wanted to make back in September got lost amidst my lawsuit. And then I thought it important for all of the counselors to here from the many Palestinian, Jewish, and allied voices who've spoken for months to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Now it occurs to me that the same money I was criticizing back in September is currently paying for this body's refusal to hear a ceasefire resolution. You see, money influences speech, so just as money from political action committees influence representative Shontel Brown and Senator Sherrod Brown's refusals to join Congressional calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, so too does the money in the Council Leadership Fund influence what you will allow on this council's agenda. I commend Councillor Maurer for her public call for a ceasefire.

As a Cleveland resident, as a democratic member of Ohio's 11th Congressional District Caucus, as a Unitarian Universalist raised halakhah-ly Jewish man, I implore all of you to follow her example. All members of President Biden's Democratic party including all members of this body, Mayor Bibb, Representative Brown, and Senator Brown, should call for a ceasefire now. All of you who have remained silent, call for a ceasefire now.

2:58 Permalink

Reverend Evan Regis Bunch

Good evening everyone. I am the pastor of the Fifth Christian Church in the Lee-Harvard neighborhood, and I live in Shaker Square. I'm a United States Army veteran. I am a black man, as you can see. And our city's moral character is called into question in this hour. This hour is not strange to us. Back in the 90s, this same hour called this City Council to declare the end of apartheid in South Africa. And now there is an air of silence that needs to be called into question. When you do the just thing, and the righteous thing, it's not a comfortable thing. When I joined the military and they told me, 'you might die', that was not a comfortable decision, and I think all of us as we are now seeing upwards of 30,000 women and children effortlessly murdered by the state of Israel, that number alone, and to hear almost two-thirds of that number being women and children, should push us and emerge a statement to have a ceasefire yesterday and not just now.

Your moral character is called into question because if you can be silent on this then you can be silent in Kinsman- Union, you can be silent in Lee- Miles, and you can be silent at Lee- Harvard. I think this young lady bringing up her situation shows you how silence works. We allow certain actors to to continue while the oppressed are hurting. The Reverend JH Jackson said there are three things you can do with an advantage. One, you can fence it in, keep things to yourself. Second, you can take your advantage and you can put your advantage on the necks of others, or thirdly, you can use your advantage to the advantage of the disadvantaged. And if our mothers and grandmothers taught us anything, we are always looking to take our advantages and giving it away to those who are at a disadvantage, and if 30,000 deaths is not calling you to use your advantage, then what good is your advantage? What good is a black person to be the president of a city council that once denied black people? Now is the time to use our advantage. Thank you.

3:04 Permalink