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Heated Gaza conflict protest clears B.C. city’s council chambers

Only people speaking to items on Surrey’s public hearing agenda were allowed back in chambers
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke calls for peace in the Middle East

Surrey city council chambers was cleared Monday night following a disruption by angry 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.

The outburst happened after she made her statement.

“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.”

One man addressed council during 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 comments.

“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.”

READ ALSO: ‘Unconscionable’: B.C. councillor asked to resign for signing Hamas letter

READ ALSO: Surrey mayor denounces Hamas

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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