MA Cities and Towns Vote for Gaza Ceasefire Resolutions

Peace Advocate April 2024

Cambridge City Hall lobby on the night of the ceasefire resolution vote. Photo by Dan Totten

by Jackie King

As the death toll climbs above 33,000 in the devastated Gaza Strip and famine takes hold among its captive population, residents in communities across Massachusetts have been rising up to protest our government’s complicity in Israel’s genocidal assault.

One live current within this large movement is the effort of local campaigns to persuade their City Councils or Town Meetings to pass Gaza ceasefire resolutions. These efforts draw on a time-honored  American tradition of local governmental bodies speaking out on vital humanitarian and political issues, in order to influence state and federal bodies to take action. Resolutions have been successfully passed in Somerville, Cambridge, Medford, Melrose, Greenfield, Northampton, Amherst, Easthampton and others. Many more are in the works.

Recently, local campaigns have come together in a new statewide coalition to share experiences, strategies and materials. Organized by leaders of the Somerville for Palestine campaign, more than 60 activists from varied communities – spanning the state from Wellfleet to Worcester to Williamstown – gathered by zoom March 16 to launch MA for Palestine. They have been meeting bi-weekly ever since.


Hyper-Local Goes Statewide

“We are a hyper-local, grassroots Towns for Palestine movement,” Mia Haddad, of Somerville for Palestine, said. “By becoming a statewide coalition, we want to provide groups that are just starting out with the tools to help them organize.”  The coalition has produced a Guide to Organize for Palestinian Solidarity that spells out how to do just that, and provides templates of materials to back up the effort.

The movement has taken different forms in different municipalities, but common themes and lessons have emerged. Here, we take a quick look at the campaigns in four sample communities.


Medford: “Courage, My Friend”

The backdrop to the Medford campaign for a ceasefire resolution was the election of an unusually progressive City Council last year, according to Munir Jirmanus of Safe Medford and Medford for Palestine. Just as important was the grassroots organizing that built towards a vote on the Council. “That part is critical,” Munir said. “Get people together, get them organized, get them taking joint action.” Their campaign began with a letter from the community to Sens. Warren and Markey and Rep. Clark calling for a ceasefire; it eventually garnered about 330 signatures.

The organizers also worked closely with city councilors to develop strategy and craft the resolution. One councilor, Kit Collins, was particularly helpful, Munir noted. When confronted with the argument that local elected bodies should not be taking positions on foreign policy, Collins explained, “These vast sums that the US is sending to Israel [$3.8 billion / year] should instead be spent on repairing our infrastructure, funding our schools, and improving our healthcare. The way our federal tax dollars are spent is very much a local issue.”

On February 6, the night of the vote, more than 70 people filled the Medford Council chambers. A group of activists led by Sara Halawa from Somerville for Palestine entered in a procession, singing “Courage, My Friend,” a South African anti-apartheid song. Of the 46 people who testified, 43 spoke in favor of the resolution. The Council voted to approve by a vote of 5 yes-1 no-1 present.


Cambridge: Inside / outside approach

After suffering a defeat last November, the campaign to pass a ceasefire resolution in Cambridge ramped up again this January. The City Council had allowed a parliamentary maneuver by one member to derail a vote on the first version of a resolution. Dan Totten, the aide to former City Councilor Quinton Zondervan, who had introduced the first ceasefire resolution along with  Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, believes that what really “moved the needle” after that defeat was members of the Cambridge for Palestine Coalition “showing up at every Council meeting to claim their time and say their piece” and “following councilors around and protesting at public events such as the annual MLK breakfast.” Those actions were coupled with ones Dan called “more strategic, not as confrontational” such as sending letters and emails, and discussing the issue with individual councilors. Members of local civic groups (such as the Cambridge Residents Alliance) that do not usually deal with international affairs, also met with councilors and testified repeatedly at Council meetings. Eventually, this inside / outside approach seems to have worked. On January 29, the Cambridge City Council voted unanimously to pass a ceasefire resolution.


Easthampton: “Our work was filled with love”

The campaign in Easthampton evolved somewhat differently. Organizers relied on cooperative relationships they had developed with local elected officials over the years, according to Merri Ansara, a leading peace activist in Easthampton and MAPA Board member. They followed the tactical advice of two sympathetic councilors: the resolution was written by community members rather than initiated by councilors; the group kept “under the radar” for a period of time, avoiding big public displays and waiting to hold a relatively quiet rally close to the date of the Council meeting, with signs that simply said “Ceasefire.”

Some 40 Easthampton residents were mobilized to testify before the Council. Their public comments repeatedly brought the issue back home. “One person called attention to the fact that the number of children killed in Gaza so far is equivalent to the entire day-care and school-age population of Easthampton, Northampton and three other surrounding communities,” Merri said. Another advocate noted that Easthampton’s share of the money to Israel every year is the same as the entire local budget for Social Services and Recreation.

“We did it our way,” Merri said. “We won over a skeptical senior councilor by the force of our humanism, as well as our arguments…We began each meeting with a poem by a Palestinian or Israeli poet and our work was filled with love.” In the end, the ceasefire resolution passed on a vote of 7 yes, 0 no, 1 abstention.



“It was a victory,” said Molly Merrett, a Greenfield resident and member of the WMass Coalition for Palestine, when asked her opinion of Greenfield City Council’s passage of a ceasefire resolution. Molly’s group organized partly through a petition. They met with councilors for weeks, explaining their positions and trying to answer questions and objections. “Some councilors were supportive and easy to talk to from the beginning, but others were not willing to be transparent with their constituents,” she said. One councilor asked for many amendments and, no matter what compromises the activists were proposing, did not seem willing to get to “yes.”

As happened in some other communities, some language changes to the original draft of the resolution were particularly hard for the organizers to accept. But in the end, in most cases, they understood why their allies on the Council had to compromise. “I was fixated on the fact that they took out the word ‘permanent’ to describe ceasefire,” Molly said. “We felt that was a blow, but we needed that councilor’s yes vote.” In the end, the Council voted to join the more than 100 municipalities around the country calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Jackie King is a MAPA Board member and newsletter editor.