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City Council to hear Gaza ceasefire resolution next week, Mayor Thomson says she won’t sign it

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The Bloomington City Council will hear a resolution calling for a ceasefire and more aid in Gaza next week, Council President Isabel Piedmont-Smith said during the governing body’s regular meeting Wednesday.  

Piedmont-Smith said she and councilmember Dave Rollo are co-sponsoring the legislation, which will appear on the agenda for the council’s meeting April 3. A copy of the resolution was not listed on the city council’s website as of Thursday morning and Piedmont-Smith said a draft of the legislation has not yet been finalized.  

However, Mayor Kerry Thomson said later in the meeting she would not sign any resolutions addressing issues outside of city business. While she made this statement during the council’s debate on a resolution opposing a state-sponsored water pipeline in Boone County, Deputy Mayor Gretchen Knapp confirmed in an email Thomson would also not sign a ceasefire resolution.  

“Her statement applies to any resolutions outside of City business, and Council President Piedmont-Smith is aware of the mayor’s intent in that regard including matters of federal foreign policy,” Knapp said. “We have a lot of work to accomplish with Council and other partners for our city, and we need to focus all of our time and energy on that work.”  

According to Indiana Code, Thomson must sign or veto resolutions that come to her desk. Failing to sign the resolution means the legislation is considered vetoed. If she vetoes the legislation, the resolution will be returned to the council for another vote. However, six of the nine councilmembers must vote to override her veto.  

Before Piedmont-Smith announced she was co-sponsoring the legislation, councilmember Andy Ruff said the city council has passed advocacy resolutions addressing issues that extend past the Bloomington community. For instance, he said in 2003 the council passed a resolution opposing a U.S. war with Iraq without proof of a national security threat.  

“I recount this bit of City of Bloomington council history to remind all of us that while we all have different views on different issues and different special interests and concerns and priorities, we’re all part of this community,” Ruff said. “The Bloomington City Council chambers is a place where we can come together, debate and deliberate the issues we care about as a community and that matter to us — local, state, federal or global.” 

Piedmont-Smith's announcement comes after more than a month of conflicting pressure from community members, with some urging the council to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire and others asking the council to not introduce this legislation. This pressure has been the focus of public comments for the last three council meetings. 

During a council meeting Feb. 28, dozens of Bloomington residents urged the council to introduce and pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war after Jewish Voice for Peace Indiana, a state chapter of the world’s largest anti-Zionist Jewish organization, sent a letter to the council Feb. 25 calling for this legislation. 

At the following March 6 meeting, several residents implored the council to not introduce any legislation for a ceasefire, arguing calling for a resolution was not a local government matter and could isolate parts of the community.   

On Wednesday night, more than 100 Bloomington residents and IU community members filled Council Chambers. Many residents held signs reading “Ceasefire now”, “Let Gaza Live” and “Stop Bombing Gaza.” Some community members also wore Keffiyehs — traditional headdresses fashioned from cloth worn in parts of the Middle East. 

Dozens of people used public comment to support adopting a ceasefire resolution. Councilmember Piedmont-Smith extended public comment to 45 minutes at the start and added 10 minutes at the end to let more people speak.  

Among dozens of others at the podium and on Zoom, Bloomington resident Lisa Miller Maidi said the council should support a ceasefire resolution. 

“Have the moral courage to call for a sustainable ceasefire,” she said to the council. 

Bloomington resident Noah Stoffman criticized using the city council’s time and resources on an international conflict rather than local issues. He thanked councilmembers Rollo and Piedmont-Smith for speaking with him and community members about crafting a ceasefire resolution without what he described as “inflammatory language.” 

“I am fortunate enough to own a dictionary, and therefore I know the claims that Israel is an apartheid state, and that genocide is occurring are unfounded,” Stoffman said. 

Immediately after, several in the audience repeatedly shouted “shame!” at Stoffman. Council President Piedmont-Smith quickly quieted the audience. 

IU Palestine Solidarity Committee President Aidan Khamis responded at the podium, saying the issue is pertinent to many Bloomington residents. 

“This might be going on halfway across the world, but the reality is that the connection is explicit right here,” he said. 

Khamis also referenced a preliminary International Court of Justice ruling Jan. 26 stating there was “plausible” evidence Israel was violating portions of the 1948 Genocide Convention. 

In the ruling, the court ordered Israel to increase humanitarian aid in Gaza and prevent acts of genocide but did not order a ceasefire in the war. Israeli officials rejected these allegations and argued South Africa, which brought the case to the court, was “weaponizing” the international convention against genocide.  

The Israeli military has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, which began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack killed about 1,200 people in Israel. Hamas took around 250 people hostage and has since released around 110 hostages. In response to the attack, Israel launched an airstrike campaign and ground offensive into Gaza, which has displaced 80% of Gaza’s population.  

On Monday, the U.S. abstained from a U.N. resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. It had previously vetoed three similar resolutions. 

Dozens of U.S. cities have resolutions in favor of a ceasefire, including Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis. No communities in Indiana have officially passed any such resolutions. 

After discussions and votes over other council resolutions, several people during the last public comment portion of the meeting spoke again about the conflict. One commenter urged for specifics on a ceasefire resolution — for an immediate, permanent ceasefire and urging the U.S. to refund the humanitarian aid group UNRWA. 

Others spoke out against a ceasefire resolution but said if one was to be passed, it should also include a clause supporting the disarmament of Hamas.  

Bloomington resident and peace activist David Keppel said including a clause about Hamas would be unnecessary. 

“We’re not here to determine the political future of the Middle East,” Keppel said. “Still less, to choose the political leadership of the Palestinian people. We’re here to stop a humanitarian catastrophe.” 

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