Surrey city council chambers was cleared Monday night following a disruption by frustrated protesters calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
“I was shocked, to be honest, that they were so angry,” Locke said in the aftermath. “Some of the stuff they were yelling at us, calling us murderers…
“They wanted the call for a ceasefire,” Locke said, “and I called for peace, because peace to me is much larger than a ceasefire. I was personally taken aback that they got so cross.”
At the outset of the meeting, Locke said the City of Surrey condemns all acts of racism, including anti-semitism, anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia. “The City of Surrey recognizes the humanitarian crisis unfolding around the world, including in Israel and in Gaza, and call for peace in order to protect all human lives, especially those of children,” she told the chamber.
Locke made her statement roughly two minutes into the meeting and the outburst began at about the 28 minute mark into the public hearing.
“You’re statement was not enough,” a man said from the podium, a few minutes before the yelling began. “As we speak children are being blown to bits. Every 10 minutes a child is killed in Gaza and you are speaking in a sleepy tone about peace, that’s not enough. We need a motion calling our prime minister to call for a cease fire immediately. Your statement was not enough.”
“There are 100,000 Muslims in Surrey, we’re voters, we are organized, we will make sure our voice is heard, we will make sure that none of you are re-elected if you do not pass a motion for a cease fire immediately,” he said.
“My children are being blown to bits, do you understand that?!”
Locke asked him to sit down, he refused, and people in the audience started shouting. Locke then called a recess, which lasted roughly 13 minutes.
“I don’t understand what they didn’t like,” Locke told the Now-Leader. Clearing the council chambers, she said, “was truly something I never thought I was going to have to do. You know, we have the business of the city to run, this is the people’s – all people’s – place to be and it made it uncomfortable for a lot of people. A lot of people that were there for business left because it was upsetting to them.”
Only people speaking to items on the public hearing agenda were allowed in chambers, after council returned from a brief recess. In the lobby outside chambers, a woman shouting about genocide yelled, “Children, every ten minutes a child dies. You live with that, you live with that mayor, you live with that.”
Another man who said he is a high school teacher in Surrey addressed council later on in the public hearing.
“It wasn’t until I stood up for Palestine, where I have been threatened at my workplace, where individuals from around the world have been emailing the Surrey Teachers Association asking me to get fired,” he told council. “I’m not here on behalf of myself, I am here on behalf of the many teachers that I have been talking to who feel constricted in their workplaces.
“As an individual who has been fighting for human rights, I only ask for simple words, simple words such as a ceasefire that I know most of you believe in,” he said.
Later in the meeting, Councillors Harry Bains and Linda Annis lauded Locke’s statement.
“I want to begin by thanking you for your statement earlier where you condemned all acts of racism in our community,” Bains. “I heard the individuals who spoke here today and I understand their emotions. Children are dying, and I can’t imagine a world where that would be okay. I recognize the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza and the West Bank and I call for an immediate cease fire by all sides in order to protect all human life, including all of those children.”
Annis echoed that. “I just wanted to thank you for your opening comments this evening around the horrific war that is taking place in the Middle East, and also to thank Councillor Bains as well, it was very difficult, and I think we all agree that a ceasefire is needed both for Israel and the folks living in the Gaza, it’s horrific what’s happening there and I just want to thank both of you for speaking up.”