Athens City Council passes a resolution calling for ceasefire in Gaza

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — In the third packed meeting in a row, Athens City Council passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

Members voted 4-2 in favor, with councilmembers Alan Swank and Solveig Spjeldnes voting against the resolution.

This is the first time the city has passed a resolution addressing international conflicts, and some members fear the precedent this could set for resolutions going forward.

Councilmember Michael Wood said he did not think when he joined the council in January he would be passing a resolution like this.

“When I signed up to run for council, I thought we would be doing things like solar panels and parking,” he said. “But I’m moved and honored to have this be my first action.”

Wood said what drove him to put this resolution forward were the statements made by people over the last three weeks.

“The tipping point for me was Brandon Thompson’s comments,” he said. “We have done things for Brew Week and for bees. Why can’t we do things for human beings.”

Athens City Council discussing a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza
Athens City Council discussed a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza [Jack Greene | WOUB]
The city’s assistant law director had cautioned against passing the resolution because of the precedent it would set, saying resolutions should be focused on local issues.

But Wood said that “resolutions are a way for us to effectively express our opinion as a council. So why not voice that opinion for peace.”

Councilmember Jessica Thomas echoed Wood’s sentiment.

“This puts actions behind words for our city,” she said.

Spjeldnes and Swank said they, too, agree what is happening in Gaza is horrible and should be stopped, but it is not the council’s place to pass resolutions focusing on foreign or national affairs.

“I truly believe a majority of residents in Athens do not want City Council to be involved in this kind of effort,” Spjeldnes said. “I’m worried this is harming our local area even though I approve and agree something needs to be done on a national and international level.”

Swank said he is uncomfortable picking and choosing which legal opinions the council decides to go with.

“I think that’s a very dangerous path to go down,” he said. “And again, like a resolution, we were offered an opinion, an opinion I respect, an opinion I’m prepared to follow.”

Swank said he also worried about the resolution’s repercussions.

“I’m afraid it’s going to set a precedent not so much on acting on resolutions, but dealing with issues that might be handled better in a different environment.”

Large number of Athens residents pack a city council meeting in support of a ceasefire resolution
A large number of Athens residents pack a city council meeting in support of a ceasefire resolution [Jack Greene | WOUB]
Supporters crammed in the council chamber, along with those in an overflow room, called out Swank and Spjeldnes.

Many shouted they would vote them out, and that they “do not represent the city.”

Councilmember Beth Clodfelter had been on the fence on whether or not to vote yes on the resolution.

Clodfelter said that in Cleveland, where a similar resolution was passed, “they have been swamped with other requests to deal with other national and global issues” and are “having trouble keeping up with the business of Cleveland.”

She said in a city like Athens that cares so much for human rights advocacy, she fears they, too, could become swamped with similar resolutions.

However, Clodfelter ultimately voted to pass the resolution.

“I was consistent in saying that I was absolutely for ceasefire,” she said. “I thought what member Wood put forward is more balanced.”

And though Clodfelter fears this resolution could swamp the council with similar requests, she said a proposed resolution from Councilmember Micah McCarey would help the council discuss resolutions like this in the future.

“Maybe we as a council can come up with parameters for what kind of national and international issues we will address,” she said.

McCarey said the resolution he is putting forward will “create opportunities for us to consider means by which council can hear those concerns from community members that might have global implications without it necessarily coming through as a resolution.”

He said his resolution would help the council address national and global issues at a local level.

McCarey’s resolution will be put before the council in the committee of the whole at Monday’s meeting.