Chaos erupted at a Durham City Council meeting Monday night, when over 100 protesters calling for the council to adopt a resolution supporting a cease-fire in Gaza interrupted the session with chants, singing and demonstrations.
Durham City Council began the meeting by discussing new residence zoning areas, but the session came to a halt when one speaker, who initially began to talk about why he opposed the new zoning laws, started to call for a cease-fire.
The crowd of cease-fire protesters filling the room began to chant and stomp, while others outside the room began to flood into the chamber.
Protesters laid 250 roses in front of the city council members, which they said represented the number of Palestinians that the Israel Defense Forces killed each day since the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7.
A few pro-Israel attendees were also present in the chamber when the interruption began, holding up Israeli flags and responding to the chants with demands to release all Israeli hostages held by Hamas.
When protesters started chanting and entering the town hall, Durham Mayor Leonardo Williams called for order in the chambers, and after 20 minutes of chanting, the demonstrators were told to leave the chambers, or they would be arrested. The pro-Israel attendees were allowed to remain in the chambers while they continued the meeting, so long as they remained peaceful.
Still, the cease-fire protesters viewed their demonstration in a different light. According to protester Lee Edwards, the display was an important moment for Durham residents to express themselves.
“For people to be using their voices, and to be participating in making a lasting change … that's not possible everywhere around the world,” Edwards said.
Demonstrators said that they felt Durham needed to call for a cease-fire because it would pressure the federal government to do the same.
Activists across the country have pressured their local governments to support a cease-fire in Gaza, and Triangle leaders have faced mounting pressure to pass cease-fire resolutions after the Carrboro Town Council adopted one in November.
Williams has previously asked for more time to contemplate the issue, putting together a small group of local advocates from each side to advise Durham government leaders on the topic. The council added a cease-fire resolution to its work session agenda for Thursday at 1 p.m.
The protest began at 6 p.m., when groups including Union of Southern Service Workers, Mothers for Cease-fire and Muslims for Social Justice gathered in front of the Durham City Hall along with other members of the Durham community.
The demonstration featured local poets and singers who performed original songs in support of the cease-fire movement.
Sijal Nasralla, the organizer of all the performers and a native Palestinian who grew up in Durham, stated that he has been making songs for Palestine for almost 20 years.
“Right now we need art. So I decided to show up. What this protest means to this community is everything right now,” Nasralla said.
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Aseel Ibrahim is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.
Claire Cranford is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.