About 15 members of the group Juneau for Palestine are among the residents showing up the public testimony portion of a Juneau Assembly meeting on Feb. 5. Members of the group also attended Monday’s Assembly meeting to reiterate their call for a resolution seeking a ceasefire in Gaza.(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

About 15 members of the group Juneau for Palestine are among the residents showing up the public testimony portion of a Juneau Assembly meeting on Feb. 5. Members of the group also attended Monday’s Assembly meeting to reiterate their call for a resolution seeking a ceasefire in Gaza.(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Assembly members express support for peace in Gaza conflict, decline to support resolution

Calls for a ceasefire by residents at recent meetings, rally prompts local leaders to weigh in.

Many Juneau Assembly members expressed sympathies with residents who during recent meetings and other events are calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, but declined on Monday to support a resolution making such a request as some questioned if it is an appropriate action for a municipal government body.

Several residents began the public comment period of Monday night’s Assembly meeting calling for the ceasefire, as occurred during a previous meeting last month. Members of the group have also made appeals to members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, and staged a rally in Marine Park during the last weekend in February attended by Assembly members Christine Woll and Paul Kelly.

Woll, at the end of Monday’s meeting, reiterated the support she expressed at the rally for a ceasefire and — referring to the public testimony at recent meetings — asked the other Assembly members about their thoughts on supporting such a resolution.

“I personally believe that we need a ceasefire and that the Assembly has an opportunity to show that our community has influence when we use our voice to persuade our federal government to take actions that could change the course of this human rights tragedy,” she said. But, she added, “I’m not going to move forward on something that is not going to have some support amongst a good number of Assembly members that would get us to a place to actually pass something.”

Kelly said he has spoken with members of Juneau’s Jewish community in addition to attending the rally, and “I might be interested in working on something as long as we can be inclusive of everybody in our community and address their concerns as well.”

“If we call for anything that we should call for peace, to an end to the war, to an end of the fighting and people dying,” he said.

Hesitation about supporting such a resolution was expressed by Assembly member Wade Bryson, who said a similar resolution discussed in April of 2022 about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — with members voting 5-4 not to suspend its relationship with Juneau’s Russian sister city of Vladivostok — resulted in unwanted publicity.

“Russia came out in May with a propaganda piece and they had a list of our names on the Assembly,” he said. “And so I would pause before I would be willing to put my name to something that the international war community would be interested in knowing my name.”

Similar concerns were expressed by Deputy Mayor Michelle Bonnet Hale, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Beth Weldon.

“I think a ceasefire does need to happen,” Hale said. “I just am not sure we’re the right body to try to weigh in on that.”

Such a resolution goes beyond the scope of what the Assembly should be considering, said Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, adding her personal opinion is “it’s really hard watching what’s happening. It’s a real genocide.”

“As a general rule as an Assembly the more we can stay focused on nonpartisan local stuff the better for all of us because we probably start to diverge in how we feel about federal and international matters,” she said.

The Assembly ended the meeting without taking formal action toward considering a resolution.

The Anchorage Assembly last week rejected a resolution calling for an “immediate bilateral ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict” by a 9-3 vote. More than 70 U.S. cities have passed resolutions related to the war, with nearly 50 calling for a halt to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, six advocating more broadly for peace and at least 20 condemning Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, according to a Reuters analysis last updated Feb. 2.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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