March 25, 2024

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Public Commenters (33 min)
Reverend Pamela M. Pinkney Butts  Muna Asraf  Adam Bresnahan  Chance Zurub  Melaak Rashid  Ruby Darwish  Jenna Muhieddine  James Lamb  Atef Zurub  Chairman Fahiem 

Reverend Pamela M. Pinkney Butts

Good evening, everybody. Good evening, everybody. I'm a preacher, I'd like a response, please. Good evening. That means where everybody gonna get along up in this room tonight. Right? All right, just briefly, I just wanted to say that a wise woman builds your house and a foolish one tears it down, plucks it down with our own hands, and we women are not going to be tearing down our homes by any means or measure, or allow anyone else to do so.

Yes, we are concerned about Africa, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel. We're concerned about Ukraine. We're concerned about all national issues and catastrophes and violence and murder, but the answer is not violence on top of violence. So let's bridge the gaps between us, everybody. Let's bridge these gaps, these racial barriers, these gender barriers, this murder mindedness, let's bridge the gaps. The one thing that we must do is focus on what we have in common, not where we differ. The one thing we must do is focus on the fact that each of us has a desire and a need for food, shelter, clothing, health care, and education. The other thing that we have in common is that we all want to have a safe community to live in. So let's bridge the gaps, everybody. Let's not come down here, anybody, I don't care who it is, whether it's on that side of the bench or this one, and tear up anything else or allow it to be torn up in the city of Cleveland. Let's bridge the gaps. Let's bridge the gaps and have some main conversation at the table to see what we have in common. Let's bridge the gaps, everybody. It's time to move forward.

Yes, we are concerned. Yes, we do care. We have the same issues in America that are in Palestine and Israel and Africa and Afghanistan and around the world, but let's not bring that mindset here to Cleveland, Ohio, and the United States of America. Let's bridge those gaps, everybody.

2:19 Permalink

Muna Asraf

I would like to say, shame on you all for standing with Israel and continuing to ethnically cleanse my people for over 75 years. As someone from Jaffa, Palestine, or currently known as Yafo-Tel Aviv- occupied Palestine, I know the atrocities my grandparents have gone through. I know how they survived the 1948 Nakba. As a Palestinian American citizen, I have the privilege to visit Palestine whenever I want, while my relatives in the West Bank and all Palestinians in the whole world don't have that privilege. That sounds like apartheid to me. I have the privilege to feel safe at night and sleep without being afraid to get bombed, sniped, or my town raided to justify all these atrocities going on in Gaza, the genocide that Israel is doing in Gaza. They used a false claim that has not been proven about rapes in October 7th to get the immediate support from the world without any evidence. Israeli occupation forces have recently raped a pregnant woman in Gaza in front of her husband, children, and relatives in Al-Shifa Hospital. They shot and killed any one of her family members that tried to close their eyes so they don't have to witness that atrocity. They killed the woman and her unborn child. Imagine being that husband, being that child, being that family member of that woman.

So what has our city done to prevent all these atrocities that Israel is committing and our country supporting? They have chose to not pass a ceasefire resolution. Instead they chose to waste over $44, 371-plus dollars of our taxpayer money to kill Palestinians. Shame.

I would like to remind you all that you are messing up with the wrong people. Our fight has been going on for over 75 years, and still to this day we are resisting the Zionist occupation, as we will continue in the future, for the remainder of our lives. And I would like to say that we will be teaching the upcoming generation about what happened to our grandparents, to our parents, to us, and how we resisted this Zionist occupation. They said the old will die and the young will forget. I would like you all to take a look at these chambers. Do we look like we forgot? No one can defeat these people that believe that death is not the end. Free Palestine.

2:56 Permalink

Adam Bresnahan

Hi, how you doing. My name is Adam Bresnahan. I live in ward 11. I just want to talk about the pedestrian safety in Cleveland. It's really a problem and I think that the city government needs to address it.

When I'm walking in crosswalks with a green light, motorists regularly violate my right of way. Right- turning motorists often fail to stop at the red light, and either continue driving, or park on top of the crosswalk. Left-turning motorists often only pay attention to oncoming traffic and speed into the crosswalk when I and other pedestrians are walking in it. This law- breaking activity is facilitated by bad traffic engineering and infrastructure. Here are just a few of the problem crosswalk intersections in the city, and again, I want to emphasize I'm talking about when the pedestrian has the green light, is in the crosswalk, and has the right of way: ward 3, East 9th at St Clair and at Superior. Just between the time when I registered for this public comment and today, I was almost hit by a car at East 9th and St. Clair because they ran through the red light while making a right turn. Ward 6, Buckeye and East 116th. Ward 8, Waterloo and East 156. I almost got run over by a speeding left- turning car here. Ward 12, Broadway and Etna. Ward 14, Denison and Ridge. Denison and Ridge might be the most dangerous intersection on the entire west side, and thinking about the fact that children have to cross Ridge here on Denison makes me want to cry because it's so dangerous. Ward 15, the Lake Shoreway West intersection which is insane. It has so many problems that there's no way we could talk about them here today. But the council member from that ward that I don't live in, at least responded to my message about it. Finally my home ward, ward 11, both segments of the West- Detroit intersection in particular. Southbound cars turning right on Detroit regularly ignore the red light and thus the crosswalk across West. Moreover, West Boulevard is effectively a highway off-ramp on-ramp during the rush hour, making crossing at Clifton incredibly dangerous, because right-turners in the morning ignore the red light and drive over the crosswalk while left- turners in the evening ignore pedestrians.

I have written my council member detailed descriptions of these problems in our ward and have suggested some low-cost [inaudible] solutions, including shorter crosswalk wait times, no extended crosswalk wait times at rush hour, no right turn on red signs, reduce speed limits, and dedicated pedestrian green lights while all traffic lights are red. But did I get a response? No. But during the election last November, I did get a lot of campaign literature from the councilman proclaiming that public safety is his top concern. Does public safety include pedestrian safety? Pedestrians are members of the public, and well, safety is safety, but maybe words have different meanings in Cleveland, ward 11.

So I just want to emphasize, please, I know you know that this is a problem. I know that you inherited a city with terrible car- centric infrastructure, but please start taking some action to improve the experience of pedestrians because the crosswalks are very dangerous here. Thanks.

3:04 Permalink

Chance Zurub

My name is Chance and I'm a member of the Palestinian youth movement. For the past 17 weeks we have attended Cleveland City Council, creating the longest sustained movement in Cleveland history, and the longest push for a ceasefire resolution across the country. We've had private meetings with you all, had over 2,000 Clevelanders sign our petition calling on City Council to pass a resolution, and mobilized over a hundred people to speak at public comment. Since October 16th, we have continued to pack City Hall because we understand the importance from Cleveland to Palestine. A resolution from Cleveland is powerful in itself, and a mere fraction of what we could do for the people of Gaza. However, Council, and specifically Blaine Griffin, have pretended to be ignorant on the issue and call this an ancient conflict. This comes despite the fact that members of this Council such as Griffin have taken multiple trips to Israel, such as in 2017 and 2019, or that Blaine Griffin has taken pictures with known anti-Palestinian agitator Alec Popivker, a man that has ran over business owners in his own ward.

However, despite the feigned ignorance, today offers an opportunity with the United Nations Security Council passing a ceasefire resolution. This Council has the opportunity to do the same for the Palestinians of Gaza and for the Palestinian and Arab community of Cleveland that has been suffering for the past 6 months while our families friends and loved ones undergo a genocide. So for the past 17 weeks we have called, but City Council is not the only one that hasn't answered. We have called on all of our elected officials to echo the call for a ceasefire, and while that includes Council, that also includes our Congress people. It includes our senators, and lastly, it includes the city of Cleveland's mayor, Justin Bibb, a man that issued his own support of genocide. Justin Bibb, who was flown on a free trip to Israel prior to his mayoral race, which was accompanied with briefcases of money according to someone on his campaign team. Justin Bibb, who at any point during these past 17 weeks could have introduced a resolution himself standing with the will of his constituents of Cleveland. And lastly, the Justin Bibb who during his time at Key Bank, secured an investment of $9- million in Israeli bonds. So while we pursue divestment from Israeli bonds and occupation, let this be your heads up, we are coming for you, Justin. With that, we'll see you next week.

2:55 Permalink

Melaak Rashid

Good evening, Council President Griffin, City Council members, Mayor Bibb, directors and all. I am here today with the privilege of speaking on behalf of a segment of the Cleveland community that I believe is one of among one of the most beautiful parts of the city, the newcomer immigrant and refugee community, who for tonight, one refugee family has asked me to share their story with you all.

Over many years I have been a part of hundreds of newcomers' journey and finding their footing and grow roots and a sense of community in Cleveland, often needing help with things that those of us who have lived in Cleveland for most of our life, for all of our life, don't even think twice about. Rarely do we ever have the fear of the possibility of war in this country, having our homes raided by heavily armed soldiers, bombings, or white phosphorus being released onto places of worship or schools.

Children, women, and men in Palestine, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Syria, Sudan and others, live this fear daily, and for many it's all that they have ever known their whole life. Many refugees to Cleveland have had their whole life shaped and changed at the hands of others, specifically other nations, mainly the United States, directly or indirectly changing the course of their entire lives. For some new Clevelanders, they have been displaced two to three times, never being able to have a place to call home long enough other than to remember its darkness. Khaled, who came as a refugee in 2020, 2021, from Syria, is originally from Palestine. In 1948, Khaled's parents along with he and his siblings left their fourth generation home in Salafa, which is a village near Jerusalem, during the 1948 Nakba and went to Lebanon. Before he knew it, his family moved once again to Syria in 1967 because of the Six Day War. Finding his wife later in life, starting his family and having children in what was his home of Syria started to feel too surreal to him, only to be then displaced once again because of the Syrian War. Khaled still has family in Gaza and hasn't heard from them in 4 months. Last he was told, he has lost 35 members to date in his family. Khaled vividly remember seeing what countries' names were on the bombs dropped when he was in Syria, and seeing the United States as one of them was one that he will never forget, and talking about how he feels about living in Cleveland, he said living in a city, county, and country that every level of government one way or another supports the very people who are killing my family makes me feel really, really sad. I share Khaled's story because this story is shared by many like Khaled from across the world who have faced war. I share this because, like Khaled, who feels that even in their own new communities there is once again no sense of solidarity, support, or feeling of feeling completely safe. The interconnectedness of violence globally is closer than we are willing to realize, and it is how and why that as long as the first amendment stands, it isour civic duty to give a voice to those who face oppression and to act against any power, influence, individual, or corporation that contributes to these systems. Because global issues are our issues. A call for a ceasefire is one step in the right direction in standing for true justice and standing against oppression. But the real impact is what comes next, divestments. This is why I implore the city of Cleveland, Cleveland City Council, and the mayor's office to investigate and divest from any and all financial assets that are in support of the state of Israel and that are connected to supporting the violence against Palestinians. To divest from them that they are operating on stolen Palestinian land, its colonial settlements and the systems that contribute to the oppressions of the Palestinians, and to continue to divest until the apartheid system is dismantled, whether it's divesting from contracts that allow purchasing of LED lights from Israeli- owned companies. We need to divest from anything that contributes to world oppression.

3:24 Permalink

Ruby Darwish

Good evening, Council. My name is Ruby Darwish. So on October 16, 2023, we came to you in condemnation of your words supporting Israel. 23 weeks ago today we came to you pleading for a ceasefire resolution, and look where we are now. For 5 months we've been showing up to City Council meetings to show that while you may not, the people of Cleveland are against genocide, and your lack of understanding, your ignorance, carelessness, and blatant disregard of Palestinians and its martyrs has not discouraged us, yet pushed us even further.

On Monday, March 4th, we had gathered on your very own steps to pass the people's resolution. Week after week, our first amendment rights have been restricted in your attempt to silence us. Yet here we are, louder than ever. While you may be able to tune out our ceasefire calls, something I can't tune out is the screams of men, women, and children being brutally murdered and tortured, but that's just me. The cries of 40,000 residents, including 14,000 children murdered and nearly 80,000 injured, is something that haunts me every single day, and you should be disturbed as well.

Council members, I'm here to question your humanity and will continue to do so along with the people in this room with me tonight. I question whether a call for a ceasefire is even enough to make up for weeks of negligence. Mayor Bibb, you claim to hold the people of Cleveland first and to lead bold change, but so far we've seen consistent behavior and a lack of effort to make any sort of change. So lastly, I ask all of you in this room tonight, do you really stand with the people of Cleveland? Thank you.

1:40 Permalink

Jenna Muhieddine

Ramadan Karim. I want to start by reading some messages that I received from Alec Popivker, who President Blaine Griffin took a photo with and has spoken multiple times at public comment: 'you are like the black Nazis who claim to be real Jews. Same trash in a different shade. Your nationality is limited to being an anti-semite terrorist heathen death cult.' He said he's 'never seen Palestine mentioned in the Quran. Is it next to Wakanda? Are real Jews black?' Yes these are messages he sent me and yes I do have the receipts. All we've been asking for is recognition, and I'm glad we're turning a new leaf. That being said, it doesn't undo the trauma and grief this room has seen. We've seen kids with their faces burnt beyond recognition. We've seen our kids cleaning up their guts and blood of their family members. And this new leaf doesn't undo the damage in Gaza. We now vow to work to rebuild and prevent any future violence week after week, and we have continued to push for a ceasefire resolution. This is the easiest, least controversial thing to request, especially considering that now the US abstained from voting in the United Nations Security Council also demands immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and even though we know that ceasefire resolution will benefit our people locally and internationally, you continue to say it wasn't a local issue. And if it wasn't, it most definitely is a local issue now. The islamophobic and racist remarks that we've heard in the past few weeks should not be considered free speech but rather hate speech. Council member Kelly, your son is a Muslim and you have fellow members on Council, inviting people to say Allah is not God, calling our people and gatherings 'terrorism' while we speak in a foreign language, and that your lives are at stake. Thank you, Councilwoman Howse-Jones for seeing through that bull. If us sharing a meal to break our fast with all types of people including police and staff and putting our foreheads on the ground with our backs turned and praying for peace is intimidating, then you are the most cowardly incapable Council and must be held accountable. Cleveland is no longer an inclusive, welcoming city, and it has been your jobs to fix this injustice. And once we have submitted public record requests, including text messages and emails, we will have confirmation that the city is no longer safe, and makes the reform efforts that much easier. I have 40 seconds left, but I'm done with my speech. But I want to talk about a case that we heard outside of Al-Shifa Hospital where a woman was raped in front of her husband. A modest covering woman beat to death, and she was pregnant, and this is one of many many rape cases of Israel, but they can't show you these things, and that not only was this in front of her husband, it was in front of many men who watched this happen. And then they killed her. They killed her and they killed 40,000 of us. 40,000. 20,000 children. Free Palestine.

3:01 Permalink

James Lamb

Good evening all. To the honorable Mayor Justin Bibb, to the honorable President of Council and the body of Council. I come to you all this evening on a matter of this. I lived in Cleveland now 54 years. I come from Pennsylvania. I get here and I was told I couldn't work. A ticket-to-work comes out and I can work, so now I'm a tax credit. Mayor Jackson puts me to work, and I go to work for six years doing the most honorable job Cleveland can find, okay. Someone that's not hollering, someone just trying to make a city grow, and believe me, people, we all understand your pain, we all have families, so when it comes down to that- I was born with a disability, so hey, life is life and God going to handle it. But when it come down to it all, I go to work for six years, I do a job that's talked about every day, turn out work that no one else can turn out, worked during Covid. Okay. My councilman running around, he loves me to death. He calls me the Mayor of Tremont. But all of a sudden I get terminated from a job because of the fact that I asked to meet with Mayor Bibb, and he told me arrange the meeting and we can talk. I called the office twice after not getting an answer, but the phone picked up. On the 19th of December, I'm in City Hall, so I decide, well, I know his calendar is busy, but I'll go and find out what they can do about putting me on the calendar for the first quarter of the year. I get up in the office, I get told you're not going to see the Mayor, you're not going to see the Mayor. I said, well. we all got bosses and everybody down here that know me know one thing. I don't mind going over nobody's head, because we all do have bosses, and at the end of the day, the taxpayer run this city. The taxpayers. So I leave here, go to work. One second please, please. I just need it. I got to I go to work the next day to find out that I got fired over the telephone. Got fired without no written notice-

[Griffin]:Mr. Lamb. your time is up.

[Speaker]: no verbal -no suspension. Somebody, the ADA can't help me cuz they work for Mayor Bibb, they say so, somebody got to-

[Griffin]: Mr. Lamb your time is up Sir.

[Speaker]: okay.

[Griffin]: We'll follow up.

3:45 Permalink

Atef Zurub

How you doing, guys. This is for the mayor, Justin Bibb. I've been living over here for 42 years in Cleveland, when Michael White was mayor. After that, Jane Campbell, and Frank Jackson, and now its your turn. You never did nothing for Cleveland so far. 2025 is coming soon for you, its going to be out of the door. You know, I'm a member from the Union 310. We are powerful in Cleveland, okay, and each time when anyone from you guys wants to be elected, [you] comes to our union to be supported. We've been supporting you guys for all those years. When you ask us about a small thing for the ceasefire, no, you kick us out right away. You sitting over here, guys, they not doing nothing. Each one of you looking in his phone or talking to his partner, you just ignore it, you know. The only thing, you never put it, asking each other to go and vote for it, just ignore it. What we need you guys for over here to represent Cleveland for, if you're not going to listen to the people and see by your eyes what we're doing. We lost a lot of members in our family. That's the only thing we asking you to do for our city over here, and what do you guys do, nothing, you know. Absolutely nothing, you know. You guys sitting in your chairs over here, you're enjoying yourself. But next year watch where you guys going to end up over there. You you need a lot of support of us. If you're not get our support, you're not going to have this chair.

We just ask you for one thing. All those guys, they've been coming for 17 weeks now. They coming over here. What do you guys do? Nothing. Sitting to each other, talking to each other, each one of them, in his phone and talking and stuff to his partner. Nothing. He just the first one time, Justin Bibb, he show up in our meeting over here. We've been coming for 17 weeks, we never seen him. What we need is a mayor for then? If you're not listening to the people, whatever they need, what do we need you for, guys? Sorry guys, 2025 is coming. You got to hold your seat real good because you know you're going to miss it after that. Thank you, guys.

3:03 Permalink

Chairman Fahiem

Peace and love, everybody. How y'all doing today. Good. Time is starting out right. First, it's obvious by my hoodie where I stand. I stand with the people of Gaza. Free Palestine. Absolutely. And I also want to be very specific about the demographic of people that I represent, the southeast side of Cleveland. We stand with the people of Gaza as well, and so with that, thank you, and so with that we are demanding a ceasefire right here in the city of Cleveland.

As our children are being slaughtered in the streets, I believe it was 150 murders over 150 homicides last year. In the city of Cleveland, 70 of those homicides were young men and women between the ages of 18 and 33. 22 children were murdered last year in the city of Cleveland, right. We're not even including the population of juveniles that we got incarcerated in the 8 to 9 prison-based facilities that we have in the city. So we have a huge problem here, right. And so I got a few points that I really want to touch on because to me, context matters.

Some of y'all know who I am in this room, I've had multiple council members sitting at these tables reach out to me personally to address issues going on in their neighborhoods, to assist families, juveniles in particular, in their neighborhoods, and we've had some barriers put in place, right. My organization has been labeled a criminal organization at a meeting a few months ago with the former Fourth District Commander Mo Brown, and he told us that Councilwoman Deborah Gray came to him and labeled New Era Cleveland as a criminal organization. Let me tell you about my organization. We fed over 200,000 families in Northeast Ohio, is that correct Mr. Starr? That is correct, you were with us. We've helped search and rescue five missing children that were being human sex trafficked in the city of Cleveland, isn't that correct Mr. Jones? That is correct, right. So why are these barriers being put in place and why put my people in harm's way by labeling my organization a criminal organization.

We have a community center right in your ward, Councilman Blaine Griffin, we couldn't even get a meeting with you because of the issues with Councilwoman Gray. I have a problem with that. My young men that I brought with me today in the back room, the Cave of Adullam Academy, we have a Youth Academy at Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile State Prison. We have a juvenile- we have a Cave of Adullam Academy at the County Jail right here in Cleveland, and we have two locations out in the community. And we have all of these barriers being put in place, so when we talk about the state of the youth as elder Paul Hill said, 'if you want to know how society is doing ask this one simple question, how are the children?' Look at our kids. So Councilwoman Gray, when you put these barriers in place, ma'am, you're putting these barriers in place for these young men, not me, for whatever issue you may have. And I want to be clear about that. I kept my head down the last year and I tried to do the work and not get wrapped up in the politics, but this year I want the smoke. Mayor Justin Bibb, I'm going wrap this up. Mayor Justin Bibb, you've been ducking me for a long time and I want to let you know that the city of Cleveland has got its return on investment. That settlement, that $55,000, we built a Youth Academy, we fed over 25,000 families, and we busted up all of our work in the city of Cleveland. So thank you.

3:15 Permalink