Mass movement for Palestine wins ceasefire resolutions

On Jan. 31, Chicago became the largest city to adopt a ceasefire resolution — a tactic to pressure Washington to stop its continuous funding of the ongoing genocide in Gaza. The city’s left-wing, African American mayor, Brandon Johnson, broke Chicago City Council’s tie, which resulted in a final 24-23 vote.  

Palestine supporters cheer after Chicago City Council passes ceasefire resolution, Jan. 31, 2024

Chicago is one of at least 47 cities to take such action. Richmond, California, became the first U.S. city to successfully pass an anti-genocide resolution on Oct. 25, 2023; Detroit and Atlanta passed similar statements Nov. 21, 2023. Other communities that have called for a ceasefire include Dearborn, Michigan; Akron, Ohio; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island; Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Carrboro, North Carolina. 

Every resolution has involved a struggle

None of the ceasefire resolutions have been passed without a contentious fight, as indicated by Chicago Mayor Johnson having to break the tie in the City Council vote. The corporate press, along with bourgeois politicians of both capitalist parties, have routinely vilified supporters of the ceasefire demand following each city council victory. The media is not afraid to display anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia in its coverage of ceasefire proponents and protesters. 

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, recently used the growing call for a ceasefire as an opportunity to once again attack Russia by stating: “I think some of these [pro-Palestinian] protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia.” (NPR, Jan. 28)

There are many other cities where community members and even city officials have demanded an immediate ceasefire but have not had the same success. In the San Francisco Bay Area, while San Francisco and Oakland passed ceasefire resolutions, Berkeley activists were not as successful; the Berkeley City Council pulled its resolution in December 2023.  Since then, community activists have been bombarding its meetings with protests.

Charleston, West Virginia, and Cleveland are two other cities where demands for a ceasefire resolution were unfortunately defeated. Just like other city council actions, protests in Cleveland and Charleston were Arab- and Palestinian-led, and most of the participants wore keffiyehs. One week after the Charleston City Council and Mayor Amy Goodwin “tabled” the proposed resolution, activists followed up by showing up to the meeting with tape on their mouths. 

In St. Louis, the pro-worker Board of Alderman unanimously voted for a ceasefire resolution on Jan. 12 that includes a call for, “the unrestricted entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza and the restoration of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies.” (St. Louis Public Radio, Jan. 12). The St. Louis County Council is much more conservative than the city’s Board of Alderman, but a group of activists went to the County Council to demand that it too pass a ceasefire resolution. 

In Congress, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Cori Bush (D-Missouri) are pushing for a ceasefire resolution. Rep. Bush – an African American woman from St. Louis — is currently facing politically and racially motivated retaliation from both the bourgeois media and right-wing politicians. People attacking her claim there was a “misuse of funds” for “personal use of security.” (Jurist, Feb. 1). 

What those same critics fail to mention is that Rep. Bush has received many death threats for simply being a Black woman in Congress who tends to vote in the interest of her constituents more often than the majority of congressional representatives Most of them are white men who use money for personal use all of the time. The racist and sexist attacks currently being leveled against Reps. Bush and Tlaib – who was censured in a bipartisan vote in Congress – have a lot to do with their brave defense of the Palestinian people. Tlaib is the only Palestinian member of Congress.

Labor and youth help lead the fight  

Increasingly, actions are being led by young people. As part of a week of action leading up to the City Council vote, students at several schools in the Chicago Public Schools system carried out walkouts demanding a ceasefire. Students have been conducting militant actions for Palestine in school districts across the country. Ann Arbor Public Schools, in Michigan, became the first public school district to pass a ceasefire resolution on Jan. 17.

Also, as part of Chicago’s week of actions, area unions held a press conference demanding passage of the resolutions. Mayor Johnson was elected with labor support.

The first U.S. unions to take up the ceasefire call were the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE) and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 3000 as early as October 2023. Several union locals signed on to the UE and UFCW Local 3000 statement. By December, the American Postal Workers Union and the United Auto Workers had signed on. Leaders of the Communication Workers, National Nurses United and National Education Association have also released statements calling for a ceasefire. The Texas AFL-CIO became the first state labor federation to demand an end to the ongoing genocide.

Some unions which initially upheld a pro-Zionist position in October 2023 were later pressured by the rank and file to change their message and pass pro-peace resolutions. The American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees Union are two unions where leadership was pushed by the membership to change their initial stances. In particular, AFT President Randi Weingarten has a long history of backing the Zionist state, politically and materially.

While there are still many unions who are remaining silent or refusing to take a progressive position regarding Palestine, a majority of union members are now represented by a union that has passed a ceasefire resolution. Several of these unions are among the largest and represent both public and private sector workers. Additionally, a number of local unions have officially expressed sympathy with the Palestinian people, even if their national affiliates have not. (Payday Report, Jan. 30)

People are mobilizing in various capacities to demand an end to genocide. Every action, regardless how small, is part of a much bigger movement of justified resistance.

Otis Grotewohl

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Otis Grotewohl

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