As the Israeli military’s kill count rises above 10,000 Palestinians with no end to the violence in sight, the Seattle City Council refused to discuss or vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Their silence caused uproar in council chambers. Public commenters, including several Palestinian Seattleites, booed and shamed the council with such passion that the council called for a recess—their own humanitarian pause to a meeting that they could almost all mute anyway. Even though the anti-war advocates know the council does not have direct power to stop Israel’s genocidal assault on Palestinians, they made their point clear: Any public official on any level that stays silent on the war is complicit in the bloodshed in Gaza. 

As part of an escalating, global movement, Council Member Kshama Sawant proposed a resolution demanding a ceasefire, an exchange of hostages, humanitarian aid to Gaza, and for the US to stop sending billions of dollars to Israel. Despite announcing the resolution Monday, Sawant said more than 800 people emailed the council in support of it. 

Sawant moved to add her last-minute resolution to the agenda after near unanimous support from public commenters. Council President Debra Juarez called for a second, but in a highly unusual move, no one answered. 

“It is shameful that this city council, which is made up of eight Democrats, is not even able to give a courtesy second so that the vote can happen,” Sawant said.  

Sawant said that the Democratic Party expects loyalty from Council Members Lisa Herbold, Tammy Morales, Alex Pedersen, Dan Strauss, Andrew Lewis, Teresa Mosqueda, Sara Nelson, and Council President Juarez, even though they insist the office is nonpartisan. For that reason, they cannot vote ‘yes,’ Sawant argued. President Joe Biden ardently supports Israel and so far will only call for a “humanitarian pause.” As for the Washington congressional delegation, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) both support such pauses, but only Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) has publicly endorsed a ceasefire

Though they cannot politically vote for a ceasefire, Sawant argued that the city council’s Democrats cannot vote against ceasefire either, because that vote would come with a “political price tag,” as the calls for an end to the violence become more and more popular. According to Data for Progress, 66% of Americans and 80% of registered Democrats agree that Congress must call for a ceasefire. Besides, no one wants to go down on the wrong side of history, as many public commenters said the council would if they did not speak up.

While no one dared comment, council members have justified their “no” votes on Sawant’s past resolutions by arguing that international issues do not fall under their purview. Sawant and Palestinian public commenters anticipated that line of reasoning. 

Seattle, as Sawant argued, is not separate from the rest of the world. Council Members represent Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian Americans in Seattle—the people who wait by their phones for calls from loved ones, the people who watch the news to see what remains of Gaza. 

Palestinian and Seattle poet Lena Khalaf Tuffaha urged the council to support Sawant’s ceasefire resolution. She said it may sound “weird” to talk about Palestine at the Seattle City Council, but Seattle should be a leader. The City could set an example for other cities across the country and help pressure higher-up elected officials to act. She said the City must also show its support for Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians at this time. “I hope that my City stands up for my people,” she said. 

Another commenter, a Seattleite and a Gazan, said Israel killed 26 members of her family in Gaza, many of whom lay buried beneath the rubble. Israel said it dropped 6,000 bombs on Gaza in the first six days of its bombardment following Hamas’s attack on Oct 7, which killed 1,400 people. That’s almost as many bombs as the US dropped on Afghanistan in all of 2019. Earlier this month, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that Israel has dropped the equivalent of two nuclear bombs on Gaza since Oct 7. 

Another Palestinian said that her sons, ages 16 and 12, have lost 40 family members in Gaza. She said they will remember the Democratic Party as the “conductors” of their trauma. 

As Democrats, commenters argued that the council has a responsibility to stand up to their party. One public commenter said to the council, “a ‘no’ vote makes this war your war.” 

When the council decided not to vote at all, commenters yelled to their zoom screens, “You’re a fucking disgrace,” “Shame on you,” and “You are complicit in genocide.”