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Protest over Gaza disrupts Cambridge City Council budget meeting





Protesters disrupted the city council’s budget meeting to urge it to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Members of the public chanted “ceasefire now”, preventing the meeting last Thursday (February 15) from continuing.

Zahreen Taj Islam at the city council meeting disrupted by calls for a Gaza ceasefire from campaigners. Picture: Hannah Brown, LDR
Zahreen Taj Islam at the city council meeting disrupted by calls for a Gaza ceasefire from campaigners. Picture: Hannah Brown, LDR

Representatives from the Cambridge Young Greens and two campaign groups had submitted questions to the council about the Gaza conflict.

Holding up a Palestinian flag, Zareen Taj Islam, secretary of Cambridge Stop the War Coalition, asked: “We are asking for a very simple thing, for the flag to be flown at Guildhall to show solidarity with the people being murdered right now.”

Averil Parkinson, from Cambridge Palestine Solidarity Campaign, urged the Labour-run council to call for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire”.

Labour leader Cllr Mike Davey said the city council was “horrified” by events in Palestine and Israel since October 7 and said the Labour group “stood in solidarity with innocent civilians from both Israel and Palestine” and called for an immediate ceasefire back in December.

Cllr Davey said his group had written to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Stamer, asking for them to call for an immediate ceasefire as well.

Mayor Cllr Jenny Gawthrope Wood noted she reiterated calls for an immediate ceasefire and return of the hostages in her opening announcements at the start of the council meeting.

But Cllr Davey said the council would not fly the Palestine flag above the Guildhall.

He said: “We represent all people within this city and as such we will not be flying the Palestinian flag, just as we did not fly the Israel flag after the events of October 7.

“We believe we have to demonstrate to all members of this city our commitment to all members and all communities within that city, regardless of how our sympathies may or may not lie.

Council leader Cllr Mike Davey at the city council meeting disrupted by calls for a Gaza ceasefire from campaigners. Picture: Hannah Brown, LDR
Council leader Cllr Mike Davey at the city council meeting disrupted by calls for a Gaza ceasefire from campaigners. Picture: Hannah Brown, LDR

“Because we have a greater responsibility to the city as a whole, that is why we will not be flying the flag, despite recognition of the enormous loss of life that has been taking place in Gaza and the West Bank.”

Campaigners said they wanted the whole council to call for a ceasefire, and not just one party.

They then began to chant “ceasefire now” and refused to allow the meeting to continue despite requests for quiet from the mayor. The meeting was adjourned for around 40 minutes.

When the meeting resumed, Cllr Davey said agreement had been reached to allow representatives of the campaign groups to have another chance to speak.

Cllr Tim Bick, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at the city council, said: “My group was not asked about our view on a ceasefire. We would support a ceasefire if asked.

“We are individually and collectively moved and outraged by the plight of the people in the Middle East; the violence the injustice, the indignities, the oppression that are being meted out on innocent people daily.

“My party in Parliament is led on this subject by the only British MP of Palestinian origin, whose family still live in Gaza.

“I am happy to give my view, as I have, and for my group to. I have to say though I feel that our primary role as a local council is not about international diplomacy.

Averil Parkison at the city council meeting disrupted by calls for a Gaza ceasefire from campaigners. Picture: Hannah Brown, LDR
Averil Parkison at the city council meeting disrupted by calls for a Gaza ceasefire from campaigners. Picture: Hannah Brown, LDR

“I have countless views on this and very strong ones, but I have been elected as a local councillor and I think our priority is however community cohesion in our own city and that is a role that I take very seriously, especially when we hear of incidents of hatred between communities in the UK today.”

Cllr Naomi Bennett, from the Green Party group, said: “The Green Party has a united stance on this nationally. That stance has been specifically endorsed by the National Jewish Greens group, of which I am an occasional member.

“We stand for ceasefire, we stand against atrocities and acts of war on all sides, that stance is not going to change.

“I think people know my family is of Jewish origin and was affected by the Holocaust.

“My uncles would encourage me to pick a portable possession in case I had to run for my life.

“My parents always kept a suitcase packed in the hall. I sometimes wondered what I would do in another genocide, but I never thought I would be sitting in a budget meeting.”



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