Rebecca Maurer Gives Impassioned Speech in Favor of Gaza Ceasefire Resolution at Cleveland City Council

The speech came hours after council president Blaine Griffin issued a statement saying the body would not consider the resolution

click to enlarge Ward 12 Councilwoman Rebecca Maurer spoke out Monday evening against Council's refusal to pass a ceasefire resolution in support of Palestine. - Mark Oprea
Mark Oprea
Ward 12 Councilwoman Rebecca Maurer spoke out Monday evening against Council's refusal to pass a ceasefire resolution in support of Palestine.
For eleven weeks, a growing coalition of pro-Palestine protestors has showed up to Cleveland City Council Chambers in search of a ceasefire resolution, for at least one or two councilmembers to at least acknowledge their burden.

And for eleven weeks, Ward 12 Councilwoman Rebecca Maurer has been biting her tongue.

Monday evening, as Council was wrapping up its nightly meeting, Maurer spoke directly to the body's refusal to adopt, or at least introduce, a proposal that would show its support for the people of the Gaza Strip. Maurer's decision to speak out came amidst new rules for public commenters, those that gave Council President Blaine Griffin the ability to kick unruly protestors out, or relocate the meeting elsewhere if guest—once again—got out of hand.

As for Maurer, she had been dropping occasional, brief statements online since November, outlining her interest in a ceasefire. Yet, on Monday, her backing of the hundreds of protestors behind her came flooding out.

"I’m sorry I’ve let so many meetings pass without using my voice to personally condemn the horrors of civilian killing, and to add my voice to those around the world calling for a ceasefire," Maurer said, as applause from protestors erupted behind her. (Full video of her remarks below.)

After "dozens" of one-on-one conversations with constituents "from both sides of the wall," Maurer—who is Jewish—said she felt the onus to speak out herself, rather than just hold passive sympathy with pro-Palestine coalitions.

"The truth is, nothing is a substitute for saying these words in this Council Chambers."

Maurer's clear criticism of a council unwilling to pass a resolution came just three hours after its president, Blaine Griffin, released a statement at loggerheads with the call of the protestors.

"After talking with many of my colleagues, Cleveland City Council does not feel we are in a position to issue a fair and unbiased ceasefire resolution," he wrote.

Though Griffin acknowledged Cleveland's large Jewish and Palestinian base, and opinions Council has entertained therefrom, he pointed yet again to the draft resolution emailed to councilmembers the week before. "We will  not alienate people we call friends with a one-sided, quickly-worded resolution," he added.

"In the absence of this collaboration, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia will spread like a virus—here in Greater Cleveland and beyond," Griffin ended. "We aim to prevent that in Cleveland."

Maurer responded directly to such in Monday's impassioned speech.

"In insisting on a resolution that is shared between two communities, I fear we are replicating the harm that the speakers behind us are speaking to week after week," she said. "Why are we putting Palestinian humanity in the hands of anyone else?"

Shortly after Maurer, Ward 15 Councilwoman Jenny Spencer opted to touch on both Council's new warning to public commenter, along with her own thoughts on the ceasefire-seekers—without really choosing a definite side.

"The people who have come to Cleveland City Council are exercising important rights as citizens in a free, democratic society. May we as a society never lose these rights," Spencer said. "My heart continues to break for the unimaginable number of lives lost and for those held hostage in Gaza."
click to enlarge Protestors applauding Maurer after her speech Monday. - Mark Oprea
Mark Oprea
Protestors applauding Maurer after her speech Monday.
On Tuesday morning, Spencer issued a follow-up statement clarifying her stance, summing up all the things Council has managed to agreed on as a whole—backing Israel statehood, condemning Hamas attacks, owing up to the U.S.' $3 billion in military aid to Benjamin Netanyahu's government—and detailed the numerous lessons from her listening tour "over the past several months."

Yet, unlike colleague Maurer, Spencer sided with Council's majority.

"This week, it became clear that there is not a path forward on City Council for a ceasefire resolution," she wrote. "After much conversation and discernment, I have made the tough decision not to introduce a resolution, and therefore require colleagues to publicly vote up up or down on the issue."

As Maurer hinted at on Monday, local and national city councils have passed or pursued a similar resolution proposed by the pro-Palestine groups, including Akron, Columbus and Atlanta.

Many protestors and observers who heard Maurer's speech at Chambers were surprised by her candor; some also feared Maurer would become a kind of political pariah for the choice.

"I think she's going to become alienated, in a sense," Kamal Alkayali, 21, who has been a regular at Monday Council meetings, told Scene. "So I really don't know what to make of it. But I think, seeing her speak about it, you could see the empathy shine."

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Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea is a staff writer at Scene. For the past seven years, he's covered Cleveland as a freelance journalist, and has contributed to TIME, NPR, the Pacific Standard and the Cleveland Magazine. He's the winner of two Press Club awards.
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