Philadelphia City Council halts public comment after shouting over Hamas resolution

People against the war came to City Council to express their sides in the conflict.

Pro-Palestine demonstrators protest outside Philadelphia City Hall on Thursday Oct. 19.

Pro-Palestine demonstrators protest outside Philadelphia City Hall on Thursday Oct. 19. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

City Council President Darrell Clarke suspended public comment on a resolution condemning Hamas for its attack on Israel earlier this month and calling for peace in the region.

The rare move came after lots of shouting during the public comment section of the meeting Thursday, with loud voices complaining when pro-Israel supporters spoke out about the war.

Clarke stopped the public comment on the non-binding resolution after the heated debate continued to spiral out of hand.

“Under the rules we actually have the ability to suspend the public comment, and I tried to be fair and have everybody speak by limiting the time, but it is increasingly clear we are not going to be able to get through this because people continue to scream and holler and interrupt based on your perspective,” Clarke said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Councilmember Curtis Jones, who converted to Islam in high school, was among those who voted for the resolution.

“I will be voting for this resolution, voting to condemn that which is evil, but that resolution does not go deep enough to understand the hundreds of years of history in that land,” Jones said.

The resolution passed through council with a 15 to zero vote. Clarke admitted after the meeting that the impact of the non-binding resolution would be at best minimal.

Before the vote, hundreds gathered on the streets outside City Hall to protest.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“We expect better from our City Council members in passing a resolution that does not even acknowledge the 76 years of oppression and apartheid rule that Palestinians have had to endure at the very least,” said Indigo Jordan, an organizer with the Philly Palestine Coalition. “We could have a resolution that mentions that, and that puts actual context to this so-called war that people are trying to portray.”

Janat Zafar was also among the protestors who said they are upset with how the news media portrays the conflict.

“It’s never about condemning Hamas, they should be condemned, but Israel is also doing much worse and the US has the biggest hand in it,” she said.

“While we did see the loss of innocent lives, there were people breaking out of one of the largest open air prisons and fighting to reclaim land that has been systemically dispossessed and stolen from them,” Jordan said.

There were only a few pro-Israel supporters outside City Hall. They were separated from the other protestors by bike police and civil affairs officers.

On Monday, about 5,000 people marched from City Hall to Independence Hall carrying Israeli flags, signs condemning Hamas, as well as signs calling for peace and calling attention to hostages.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal