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Cities across Ohio consider cease-fire resolutions

A black sign with white type reads "Ceasefire now" in capital letters. It's leaned up against a set of stairs.
Becca Costello
Cities across Ohio, from Cincinnati to Athens, have considered passing cease-fire resolutions, calling for an end to the violence in Israel and Gaza.

Cities across Ohio are considering passing cease-fire resolutions, calling for an end to the violence in Israel and Gaza.

But they split on whether or not to pass them.

Some cities, like Dayton, Yellow Springs, Akron and Athens have passed resolutions.

But others, including Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, have declined to introduce or pass similar resolutions, often despite organized protests at city council meetings calling for action.

The Ohio Newsroom talked to reporters Jack Greene from WOUB in Athens and Becca Costello from Ohio Newsroom member station WVXU in Cincinnati about how two Ohio cities came to different decisions.

On why Athens decided to pass a cease-fire resolution

Greene: “Athens City Council, they've never passed a resolution like this. They’ve passed resolutions talking about racism, and they’ve passed resolutions with local ties, but this doesn’t necessarily have a local tie.

So, it ultimately was a tough decision for council members. There were three weeks of packed meetings at council, and there were lots of emotional, emotional pleas. People started to cry on the stands telling council what they've experienced, what they've heard from family members and friends, and just seen online from the situation in Gaza.

It still was a split [vote] about 4 to 2, with the deciding vote coming from Councilmember Beth Clodfelter. Now, there’s a framework of how [council] is going to be able to handle some of these international conflicts and finding local ties to those conflicts, but some other members still agree that it's not the council's place to be passing these kinds of resolutions.”

On why Cincinnati hasn’t introduced a cease-fire resolution

Costello: “Protesters have been calling on Council to pass a cease-fire resolution for several weeks off and on. But things escalated about a month [to] three weeks ago. There started being a bit more of an organization, and it seemed like there was at least one council member who wanted to pass a cease-fire resolution.

At that point, something in Cincinnati happened, which is that there was also a huge mobilization against passing a cease-fire resolution. There's a large Jewish community in Cincinnati, and several of the local synagogues and Jewish community groups really galvanized the community to come out to city council and say, ‘Do not pass a cease-fire resolution.’ So it definitely put council in the middle of this discussion.

What we heard from public comment on both sides of this discussion was that what city council does sends a message to either the Jewish community or the Palestinian community and other Arab communities in Cincinnati about whether or not they're welcome here. There's no delusion that Cincinnati council passing a resolution calling for a cease-fire would actually lead to a cease-fire in Gaza. But the idea is that these are messages from the leadership of Cincinnati saying, ‘Here's what we stand for and here's what we don't stand for.’

Now, interestingly, unlike Athens, Cincinnati council has passed resolutions weighing in on international conflict in the past, most recently a few days after October 7th, which is when the Hamas attack on Israel happened.

At that time, the mayor, Aftab Pureval, said, ‘I am the moral voice of our city, and it feels necessary to stand behind our Jewish constituents and denounce terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians.’

And a lot of the folks calling for a cease-fire resolution now have pointed back to that and said, ‘You stood with the Jewish community then, and you should stand with the Arab and Palestinian community now.’

On the other hand, some council members have been saying this is a bit of a different situation, [that] it's calling for a very specific resolution to a very complicated situation that has been going on for decades, for centuries, really. And that seeing as they're getting a lot of feedback from two different groups in the community, that passing a resolution in their mind would be divisive, that it would not unite the community and that it would just cause division.

Ultimately, what has happened so far in Cincinnati is that the mayor has said he does not believe that council can reach a consensus on this. And so he does not want to put forward a vote on a cease-fire resolution. Now, that said, for the last two weeks, we have still had Palestinian and pro-Palestinian groups coming forward and continuing to pressure council for a resolution. So it hasn't ended here by any means.”

On what a local resolution can accomplish

Costello: “Cincinnati politicians have no sway on international relations. But one council member, Meeka Owens, is so far one of the only council members to publicly say she supports a cease-fire resolution. And her challenge to other council members a few weeks ago was, if we can make our constituents feel more welcome and more comfortable, why would we not do that? And also, if we could set an example for other cities in the U.S. to call for a cease-fire, why would we not do that? And there's this idea that if enough cities and towns and townships in the U.S. do call for a cease-fire, that could put some pressure on President Biden. Now, I don't think there's any precedent for that, but that is part of the goal.

“We know there's been a rise in both antisemitism and Islamophobia since the most recent version of this conflict began a few months ago. And so there's concern about that as well, and [whether] calls for a cease-fire could calm tensions a bit. But again, there's disagreement on whether or not it would do that or further divide and perhaps ramp up antisemitism.”

Greene: “It's very similar here in Athens. People really want people to feel welcome. Like Becca alluded to, there was no passage of a resolution after October 7th. This is the first one. But Councilmember Michael Wood, who was the one who introduced this resolution, said the tipping point for him was comments from one person, who said, ‘We've done things for Brew Week, which is a big event here in Athens, and they've done things for bees, so why can't they do things for human beings?’”

On what resolutions usually do

Costello: “What these resolutions are usually used for is things like recognizing Black History Month or honoring specific people, or even it can be somewhat sillier things, like something about Saint Patrick's Day. Resolutions like this from city councils are not ever meant to enact some kind of change. It's usually about a message. It's about standing for something. So that's some kind of important context there. But that doesn't make them not important. I think it just shows that some of the constituents coming forward are saying, ‘If you can pass a resolution for something that seems a little bit silly, why not pass a resolution for something that really sends a really strong message to our community?”

Erin Gottsacker is a reporter for The Ohio Newsroom. She most recently reported for WXPR Public Radio in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.