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Our View: Amplify case for Gaza cease-fire beyond Council chambers

Understandably, people in our communities are enraged about the Israel-Hamas war – barbaric and heart-wrenching. We wholeheartedly support endeavors to end the fighting and brutalities.

One question: How can local residents be most effective?

We don’t have the details by press time but, apparently, behind-the-scenes efforts may result in public forums in places such as Buckley Park, where demonstrators can educate the public, advocate for Palestinians, fund-raise or do whatever peaceful, civil means necessary to be actionable. The park can accommodate crowds outgrowing a space as small as Durango City Council chambers.

And the city could help facilitate this. We like this approach.

City Manager José Madrigal told councilors he has talked with federal representatives about a forum where federal staff members can hear directly from constituents. In particular, the city is engaging Sen. Michael Bennet’s office. We know Bennet to be a good listener and a workhorse, so we expect something will be done.

We’re also in support of the public getting as much mic time as possible before Council members. Residents want to be – should be – heard.

Members of the Durango Palestinian Solidarity Coalition have used this right in sharing heartfelt concerns and anger.

Here’s where it gets tricky. The coalition wants the city to act by adopting a resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza.

According to policy, the city actually can’t. It is restricted from adopting this resolution. Even if it’s symbolic.

Current city ordinance prohibits councilors from considering legislation regarding political party or regional or ideological partisanship. Policy also prohibits the Council from making proclamations taking sides in matters of political, ideological or religious beliefs or individual conviction.

In 2007, the Council adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. But that was before current policy.

Still, the coalition kept asking. Demonstrators told councilors they’ll keep coming back. To this point, the Council is considering another kind of resolution – one that would limit public discourse at its meetings. If passed, it would prohibit public comments and Council consideration of “international political controversy, ideological or religious beliefs or individual conviction.”

It’s true that we cringe when we hear about limits to speech. We also see a need for local elected officials to prioritize city issues, such as housing, safety, infrastructure and more.

It’s become a dilemma.

The broad proposed resolution would put more teeth in “prohibiting the consideration of legislation.” It’s meant to keep meetings about city business moving along and on-topic, as well as prevent Zoom bombings.

And, yes, we know other municipalities are passing resolutions demanding a cease-fire. They also don’t have the same policies on the books as Durango.

Coalition members have argued that U.S. military aid to Israel’s campaign in Gaza is funded by American tax dollars, reason enough for the Council to consider the coalition’s request. Disturbing and a fair argument.

Since March 2, taxpayers’ dollars are also paying for airdrops with aid directly to Gaza, bypassing Israel. Compared with the horrors happening, this U.S. effort may seem minimal.

“We need to do more and the United States will do more,” President Joe Biden said.

Good thing. We’ll be watching. And voting.

Back to the question: How to be most effective?

Amplify the case for a cease-fire resolution at Buckley Park.

Accept any help from the city: A dais, a sound system, waived permit fees, kiosks. Tell the Biden administration exactly how you feel about the war in Gaza through representatives who work directly with him.

Be effective in larger ways. A symbolic resolution from Durango Council is going nowhere. Councilors’ ability for real action in this agonizing international matter won’t amount to anything.