Jan 31, 2024 - News

Chicago becomes largest U.S. city to call for ceasefire in Gaza

Protesters march in downtown Chicago, with a "Ceasefire now" sign.

Ceasefire supporters celebrated in Daley Plaza after the vote Wednesday. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

After weeks of delays and debates, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson cast the tie-breaking vote for a deadlocked City Council on Wednesday to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Why it matters: Chicago is now the largest U.S. municipality to urge President Biden to support a ceasefire, putting the Democratic National Convention's host city at odds with the administration's stance on the conflict and signaling growing discontent in the country.

Between the lines: The resolution, which also called for the unconditional release of all hostages and the allowance of humanitarian aid into Gaza, has stoked deep division within the City Council.

  • Some have questioned the time spent on a largely symbolic measure, while others have emphasized how the violence in the region affects many in the Chicago area, home to the largest Palestinian American and third-largest Jewish populations in the nation.

What they're saying: "We as elected officials have the power to save lives by uplifting a demand that is now shared by many and to be on the right side of history, " Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), the resolution's sponsor, said in the emotional meeting.

Two alders hug in City Council.
Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) and Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) hug after the council voted to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

The other side: "I am disappointed in the mayor," Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), the council's only Jewish member, said after Wednesday's vote. "He had an opportunity to be a unifier. And he could have sat down with us and come up with a solution that could have potentially gotten all of us a unanimous vote."

  • Silverstein and other alders have criticized the decision to model the measure on a United Nations resolution that the U.S. vetoed in December.
  • The 23 opposing alders signed a letter, stating that "passing a resolution that is counter to U.S. international policy and norms sends a dangerous message. It undermines the interest of the United States and hence the authority, power and influence of President Biden."

Catch up quick: Pressure to pass the resolution grew in recent days as Johnson, some CPS high school students, Rev. Jesse Jackson and many of the city's largest unions — including the CTU, SEIU and autoworkers — publicly added their voices of support.

Flashback: Issues around the Israel-Hamas war sparked similar rancor last October, when the council debated and ultimately passed Silverstein's resolution in support of Israel.

What's ahead: Ald. Desmon Yancy (5th), who voted to pass the resolution Wednesday, hopes the city can "work together and focus on providing solutions for other pressing issues like rising violence, the effects of disinvestment in the Black community, and beginning to close the book on a tale of two cities."

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