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Protesters calling for ceasefire disrupt, postpone Berkeley City Council meeting

The Berkeley City Council abruptly walked out of its Tuesday night meeting — only 20 minutes after protesters calling for a ceasefire to the ongoing violence in Gaza disrupted the agenda’s proceedings.

Shortly before 8:30 p.m., a few dozen protesters repeatedly chanting “cease-fire now!” interrupted the meeting. Several people took turns speaking at the podium, standing in solidarity with Palestinians and directly addressing attendees on Zoom who could still hear what was going on inside the boardroom.

Not long after Mayor Jesse Arreguín called a recess to try to regain order, Berkeley’s elected officials returned to the council chambers and quickly voted to adjourn the meeting early. The remaining agenda items and public hearings were postponed to Nov. 21 amid a cacophony of boos and shouts.

The meeting’s premature end was preceded by roughly 30 minutes of public comment on issues that weren’t on Tuesday’s agenda, which was largely dominated by demands that the council pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Many speakers asked Berkeley to follow the lead of the Richmond City Council, which approved an Oct. 24 resolution supporting Palestinians living in Gaza and protesting what the resolution characterized as an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing, collective punishment and war crimes by the state of Israel. Richmond’s vote was the first of its kind in the nation.

The Berkeley City Council has not yet made any formal statements about the Israel-Hamas war.

After each of Berkeley’s nine elected officials slowly left the dais Tuesday night, the litany of pro-Palestine chants eventually died down as a handful of protesters took turns speaking. Some people recounted stories they’d read about the ongoing violence, while others shared memories of Palestinian family members living in Gaza.

Russell Bates, a Vietnam vet now in his 70s who has found community — and protest — at People’s Park, recounted how the toll and guilt of being involved in that war still weighs heavily on him more than five decades later.

“How will (the Berkeley City Council) live with the guilt for not calling for a ceasefire now?” Bates said.

By 9 p.m., people started clearing out of the council chambers. Someone in the crowd asked, “So, are we gonna be at the next meeting?”

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