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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Equity and Empowerment Commission withdraws resolution calling for ceasefire in Gaza

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle
Evanston’s Equity and Empowerment Commission voted to withdraw a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza after a contentious meeting Thursday night.

Evanston’s Equity and Empowerment Commission withdrew a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza after over 100 residents packed a meeting Thursday night to voice their thoughts on the proposal.

Debate centered on whether the resolution is in the purview of the commission ― which focuses on local equity issues ― and if the initial draft was balanced. About 130 people signed up to speak about the resolution, titled “Resolution Affirming Evanston’s Support for a Ceasefire and the Return of Israeli and Palestinian Hostages,” in public comment.

The resolution states that “the City of Evanston urges President Joe Biden and members of Congress to support H. Res. 786 calling for an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine.” It also “condemns Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Palestinian sentiments in all its forms.”

The draft contains 18 clauses that focus on the death of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Though the statement calls for Hamas to release hostages, many attendees objected to how it makes no direct reference to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack against Israel. 

Since Hamas’ initial attack, the Israeli military has responded with a continuous bombardment, blockade and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. More than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war, while more than 1,200 Israelis were killed in the initial attack, according to Israeli and Palestinian authorities. 

Many speakers at the meeting criticized the resolution, calling it one-sided and divisive.

“The resolution will do nothing to stop the suffering in Gaza and advance the cause of the Palestinian people, and it certainly won’t make Israel safe from future attacks that Hamas is committed to,” Evanston resident Jill Bishop said. “But what it will do — and what it is doing right now — is dividing our community and making Jews around the world and here at home feel less safe.”

A letter circulated by opponents of the resolution calling the resolution’s language “inflammatory and biased” gathered over 1,000 signatures.

Some residents supported the resolution. Kristen Scotti pushed back on criticisms that the resolution is not within the Commission’s scope.

“This resolution acts to affirm the lives of our Palestinian community members, which is equitable and very local,” she said.

The city’s legal department sent an email to commissioners prior to the meeting, saying the resolution is outside of the commission’s authority, Interim Corporation Counsel Alexandra Ruggie said. 

The Equity and Empowerment Commission — made up of one City Council member and six community members — aims to “identify and eradicate inequities in City services, programs, human resource practices, and decision-making processes,” according to its website. The committee is an advisory unit and can only pass on items for a final City Council vote.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th), the sole councilmember on the Commission, joined virtually at the tail end of the meeting and urged commissioners to vote on the resolution, which chair Darlene Cannon said at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting they did not intend to do.

All seven commissioners voted to withdraw the resolution as it is currently written. It is unclear whether the commission will bring a similar resolution to the table.

Tensions rose at certain points during the meeting in the City Council chambers. Audience members shouted cheers, boos and, in one instance, profanities at commissioners and other public commenters.

Some residents pressed the commission to reveal who wrote the resolution. Commissioner Karla Thomas said the question has “felt like a bit of a witch hunt” and said commission members wrote the proposal. Commissioner Molly Malone added that “it doesn’t feel safe” to share the resolution’s author.

Commissioner Jane Grover said the EEC putting out the resolution was a “self-inflicted wound” that caused the divisions at the meeting.

“Think about the role that you want the commission to play. Is it building bridges? Is it building community?” Grover said. “Or is it bringing people together to yell at each other across a conference room?”

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