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Athens City Council meets Jan. 22, 2024, at the Athens Municipal Court on Washington Street.

Athens residents discuss a ceasefire to council for the war on Gaza

Similar to last week’s city council meeting, the council heard from members of the Athens community who tried to persuade council members to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Councilmember Michael Wood, 3rd Ward, who was not present at the meeting, had a document presented on his behalf of a drafted resolution. The drafted resolution said the Athens City Council should urge leaders at the federal and state levels to immediately call for and facilitate de-escalation and a cease-fire to end the current violence.

The resolution urged the federal government to halt funding for the war and call upon the Biden administration to promptly send and facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

Council members expressed their opinions before opening the floor to Athens residents. 

Councilwoman Solveig Spjeldnes, D-1st Ward, said members of the council had received several emails asking or demanding the council to pass a resolution. Spjeldnes said the examples she heard were a foreign policy outside the lane the local government is expected to operate in. 

Councilmember Micah McCarey, D-At Large, spoke on behalf of resident Wesley Thompson, one of the original authors of the drafted resolution, who could not attend the meeting. The message Thompson wrote focused on mental health and well-being. While Thompson realizes the resolution does not explicitly focus on mental health issues, it does have a direct correlation. 

Thompson wrote there are two ways in which this event is affecting mental health. Firstly, the U.S. supply of weapons and explosives is destroying Gaza, and it is directly causing physical and emotional harm there. Secondly, there are emotional damages transferred to people in the U.S. and the Athens community.

McCarey also shared that Athens entered a partnership with Strong Cities Network. ​​The benefits of the organization focus on helping communities work through polarizing issues to promote understanding and offset instances of violence through developing strategic frameworks, analyzing local assets and vulnerabilities, expanding partnerships and coordination and offering a robust set of relationships with other communities facing similar issues. 

Mayor Steve Patterson said Athens is one of six cities in the North American representation. 

The first Athens resident to speak was Ash Dasqui, who said the U.S. government is funding a genocide. Dasqui also mentioned attempting to speak to higher government officials has not worked and is hopeful of having local community members represent instead. Dasqui wants to hear the community say there is a genocide happening, and they are not OK with it. 

Brock Setsor, an Athens community member who recently moved to Athens, opened his argument with a quote, “War never stops, it only pauses.” Setseor said the conflict creates a division between people picking sides of the situation and opposing the idea of the ceasefire. However, Setser argued the Council needs to direct more of its time on locally based issues. 

Emma Loomis-Amrhein, an Athens resident, argued over the debate over plastic bags in the city and said the city is more prepared to fight for plastic bags, but not genocide. Amrhein said many members of the Athens community have attempted to contact government officials on the Federal level. 

“We’re grasping at straws here,” Amrhein said. “We’re hoping that you’re a straw that will count.”

The public voicing their opinions made the meeting emotionally distressful, leaving some members of the community moved by other's speeches. 

One of the last community members to speak was Zoey Ward Bryson, a resident of Athens, who wrote a prepared statement for the resolution to call a ceasefire. She believes if Athens takes a stance, it will show cities in the area that it takes a stance against racism and advocates the health and prosperity of people, not the destruction of them.

“Notably, speaking out against the genocide gives me as a community member some peace that Athens withholds human rights and maintains a safe community,” Bryson said. “If we don’t speak out against the genocide, the worst crime against humanity, then what will Athens take a stance on?”

Wood drafted a proposed resolution, and the council will meet to discuss the resolution at the next council meeting. The council will then vote on whether to pass the resolution or not. 


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