Ceasefire activists in DC protest Council Chairperson meeting
In Washington, local ceasefire activists and Palestinian residents convened at a Ward 1 community event chaired by Council Chair Phil Mendelson to press for adoption of a ceasefire resolution. | Photo via @DC4ceasefire on Instagram

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Saturday, March 23, Chairperson of the DC Council, Phil Mendelson, held what he hoped would be a low-key and peaceful community meeting at a local coffee shop in Ward 1 to discuss anything related to the DC government.

Things turned out differently, however, as DC activists, part of the DC for Ceasefire Now Coalition, took it upon themselves to organize a mass turnout to this meeting to bring their demands directly to the councilmember himself.

Coalition members held signs saying, “Genocide Is Not Inconsequential,” quoting the councilmember from his private meeting where he said similar words to Palestinian residents of DC. As the councilmember entered the coffee shop, he was met by local business owner of Busboys & Poets, Andy Shallal, retired pastor Rev. Graylan Hagler, and James Early, former cultural director at the Smithsonian Museum. The initial encounter set the tone for the entire afternoon since the councilmember seemed to be stubbornly remaining in his position of not supporting a ceasefire resolution in the council.

As the meeting started, Palestinian resident Moataz Salim spoke about how he has lost at least 23 members of his family since the events of October 7 and demanded that the DC Council pass a resolution for a ceasefire. Following Salim was American Jewish resident Benjamin Douglas who criticized the councilmember for lighting the John A. Wilson Building in the Israeli flag colors for nearly 40 days and seemingly not finding that move “controversial.”

In a heated back-and-forth dialogue with Ward 1 resident, Dante O’Hara (who is also a leading member of the local Claudia Jones School organization), accused Mendelson of being a coward for not having an answer to a question regarding the councilmember’s stance on allowing a resolution to move forward in the council, were it to be introduced.

The day before, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), along with the local Anti-Defamation League (ADL) chapter in the Greater Washington area, released a letter accusing “anti-Israel agitators” of “relentlessly pressuring the DC Council to vote on a ceasefire resolution.” Furthermore, the letter claims that “a ceasefire resolution would do nothing to advance peace in the region and would only increase hatred and inflame tensions here in the District.”

The DC for Ceasefire Now Coalition plans to continue disrupting DC government until its elected top officials speak to the issue of a ceasefire. The Mayor, DC Council, and House Delegate have all been targeted in these actions because they refuse to come out in support of a ceasefire and the activists in DC hope to change their positions on this issue.

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Jamal Rich
Jamal Rich

Jamal Rich writes from Washington, D.C. where he is active with the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.