Alexandria residents pass "People's Ceasefire" resolution

ON THE EVE eve of Nakba day, the day commemorating the ethnic cleansing key to the formation of the state of Israel, pro-Palestinian activists who call Alexandria home flooded Alexandria City Hall to protest the council’s refusal to pass a ceasefire resolution. Holding up “ceasefire” signs and wearing watermelon swag, keffiyeh scarves, and other such symbols of support, they silently let their displeasure be known. 

Protesters take a stand in the Alexandria City Hall on Nakba Day, May 14th, which marks the 76th year of the Palestinian's mass expulsion from what is now Israel. About sixty protesters were in the Alexandria City Hall calling for ceasefire.

Members of the Alexandria City Council did not acknowledge them. The original docket was packed with symbolic commemorations from various organizations, including Graduates of the City Academy, which extolled the virtues of the Alexandria city government and its various departments, including the police and prisons. 

Pro-Palestine protesters pack the May 14th Alexandria City Council meeting.

After about four of these commemorations, activists from the grassroots “Alexandria For Palestine Collective” leapt into direct action. About sixty residents interrupted the meeting, initiated their own form of Robert’s Rules of Order — the parliamentary form used by the council — to introduce a “People’s Ceasefire Resolution.” The resolution called for the city council to pass an official such resolution; demanded financial transparency and full divestment from Israel, and called for a Nakba Commemoration to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing campaign upon which the State of Israel was founded. Following a reading of the resolution the protesters called for a vote: “All those in favor say ‘Free Palestine!”

The city council did not listen to popular demand. After realizing what was happened, the council called for an immediate five-minute recess and turned off the live stream. (In fact, the live stream attempted to crop out the protestors, which made up the majority of the audience.)

Protesters take over the Alexandria City Council meeting and introduce their own People's Ceasefire.

The action later concluded in a march to Virginia Senator Mark Warner’s home, where additional demands were made: to call for a permanent and immediate ceasefire, to disband the Virginia Israel Advisory Board; to drop all charges against protestors; and to divest all aid to Israel. 

Following demonstration in the Alexandria City Council, protesters marched to Senator Mark Warner's home, demanding a ceasefire and additional diplomatic pressure on Israel.

The source of Alexandria residents' ire can be traced to three days after October 7th. In response to the Hamas-led attack on southern Israeli settlements, the Alexandria City Hall was lit up with the blue and white of the Israel flag. “...we stand with Israel and against the murderous terrorism of Hamas,” tweeted Mayor Justin Wilson, a position he has stood behind ever since. 

As Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip led to the perpetuation of acts that the International Court of Justice has classified as “capable of falling within the provisions of the [Genocide] Convention,” the blue and white lighting on the Alexandria City hall would remain on for 23 days in total. At that point, over 9,000 Palestinians (many of them children) would be killed by Israeli forces as Israeli war crimes would be documented and aired to the world. Israel's mad war has since progressed into what many scholars, including countries levying charges with the United Nations, are calling genocide.

On November 2nd, the lights were changed to the colors of the American flag, but the resistance to a change in position in Alexandria City Hall would continue. Several days later, residents with the Alexandria for Palestinian Human Rights (APHR) collective sent a letter to Mayor Wilson and the City Council demanding an apology for its one-sided stance following the October 7th raid. They then called on the council to “pass a resolution calling on the Biden administration for a ceasefire in Gaza.” The Mayor responded, at first, with a generic form letter and then a note from the Mayor, neither apologizing nor committing to a ceasefire resolution. This status quo remained for seven months. Even as APHR hosted vigils, embarked on nonviolent protest and maintained correspondence with public officials, few assurances were made.

City council was not the only target for APHR members. For several months, residents gave raw and painful testimony before the Alexandria Human Rights Commission, a volunteer board of citizens appointed by the city council and sitting under the Office of Human Rights. Residents asked the HRC to pass their own ceasefire resolution. in November of 2023, but in the ensuing months, the vote to recommend such a resolution was stalled (note: the HRC is an advisory body and can only make recommendations). The stated reason was always procedural. Councilors alleged that the HRC did not have the scope to make such a recommendation, but we now know from an audio recording obtained by ALXnow that at least three members of the City Council requested that such a resolution not get to them. Jean Kelleher, director of the Office of Human Rights, said in the recording: “...there were three different elected officials who came to me and asked for the Commission not to send a specific resolution on an international issue.”

The Alexandria for Palestinian Human Rights (APHR) collective has met with many members of the city council, but only two have said they would vote for such a resolution, and none would sponsor it. Most have avoided any contact whatsoever, and in recent months even the most vocal proponents have stopped responding to the collective's messages. A media representative for APHR told the Washington Socialist: “... it's been shocking and very unusual that they completely ignored this recommendation from the Human Rights Commission. “

The mayor’s office has been even more hostile, with Mayor Wilson liking a Facebook post in February that called the APHR “a group of Palestinians and their supporters — including a small number of tokenized Jews.” The mayor has yet to apologize for this dehumanizing language, nor has he made any plans to acquiesce to protestors' demands.

Right now, the council is at a standstill. As of March 20th, the Alexandria Human Rights Commission has officially recommended that the council pass a ceasefire resolution, but with the majority of the council disinclined to act on such a recommendation, it will not advance without substantial public pressure.

This dilemma is why the collective has escalated into this most recent action and has no plans to stop in the near future. “We’ve realized these folks are not responding to our appeals,” APHR's media rep continued, “and so we have no choice but to take it to the people to pass a people’s resolution.” 


About Alexandria for Palestine

Alexandria for Palestinian Human Rights began as a group of 6 activists protesting the city’s unqualified support for Israel as it carries out a genocide against the people of Gaza and demanding action in the form of a ceasefire resolution. It has since grown to a robust body of over 160 members that are multi-religious, multi-generational, and multi-racial. You can get involved by filling out this form. The Palestinian solidarity organizing in Alexandria helped spur similar organizations in Arlington and Fairfax also putting pressure on their local governments for a ceasefire resolution. 

Tuesday’s action marked the debut of a Virginia statewide coalition for Palestine, which includes Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Richmond, Lynchburg, Blacksburg, Winchester, and Roanoke. On the same day that Alexandria activists disrupted City Hall and rallied in front of Senator Mark Warner’s home, cities across the Virginia held protests, rallies, phone zaps, and gave public testimony in support of our common demands: halt all aid to Israel, disband the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, dismiss charges against protesters, and call for a permanent and immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 

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