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'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Activists demand Winston-Salem city council call for ceasefire in Israel-Hamas war, as renewed international pressure mounts

Protesters shouted “ceasefire now” for four minutes straight following the public comment period.
James Watson
On Feb. 19, Winston-Salem protestors held signs during the city council meeting including phrases such as “stop bombing kids”and “Your tax $$$ are dropping bombs on babies.”

At Monday night’s bi-monthly City Council meeting, approximately a dozen protesters erupted after the public comment period, chanting “cease-fire now” as council members filed into a scheduled closed session. 

The four-minute-long demonstration followed the 30-minute public comment — a specified part of the monthly agenda in which members of the public can speak before the city council.  Multiple individuals in the group had signed up to speak ahead of the meeting. 

In the wake of renewed international pressure following the bombing of the southern Gazan city of Rafah on Sunday, Feb. 11, the local activists had gathered to advocate that the city formally call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Just two of the individuals in the group who signed up were able to speak at the meeting for three minutes each, per set rules of public comment. One of the speakers was an elementary-aged child. 

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Another speaker, Marcus Miller, said thoughts of the people of Palestine consume his every thought. 

“For the sake of humanity, if not yours, then at least for those being ethnically cleansed in Gaza, pass a ceasefire resolution,” Miller said. “Urge Congress to stop the slaughter. You represent us.”

Four months into the Israel-Hamas war, the U.S. has seen a wave of political activism stretching from the halls of Congress to Wake Forest’s Hearn plaza — where two weeks ago 10,000 white flags appeared on the quad overnight to represent the rising number of children who have been killed in Gaza.

The war began on Oct. 7 when the Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out a surprise attack on Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip — a Palestinian territory that Israel and Egypt have blockaded for 16 years (Editor’s Note: The Old Gold & Black follows AP Style guidance, which is to refer to Hamas as a militant group). 

This affects all of us here locally, it’s not just an international issue.

— Tony Nedge, Leader of Black Lives Matter Winston-Salem

The attacks resulted in the death of 1,200 people. In response, Israel carried out air strikes and sent troops into Gaza. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in the months since. 

Despite its distance, Wake Forest has not been immune from the tension that’s followed the region-destabilizing violence in the wake of Hamas’ October 7th attack on Israel. 

College campuses around the United States have become flashpoints for advocacy as the Israel-Hamas war unfolds. Wake Forest has seen vigils from Jewish students and the Muslim Students Association, a teach-in organized by faculty and a high-profile resignation from a tenured English professor. 

In response, the University has hosted a number of “Holding Space” events to give students and the Wake Forest community a space to reflect on the war. Wake Forest has also hosted bystander intervention training focused on combating Islamophobia and antisemitism. 

Now, the fight is making its way to city governments across the country.

In the week leading up to the City Council meeting, flyers were posted around academic buildings in Wake Forest advocating students “pack city hall” on Monday night. The Old Gold & Black did not identify any Wake Forest students or faculty members at city hall.

Tony Nedge, the leader of Black Lives Matter Winston-Salem and Monday’s demonstration expressed frustration that not all the activists who signed up ahead of the meeting were allowed to speak. 

“I think it’s ridiculous — they only would have taken about another half an hour,” he said. “So that has to change.”

The public comment period seemingly wasn’t any shorter than normal; however, the option to extend the period is an ability afforded to the council. 

A few hours before the City Council meeting, approximately 20 people picketed along the sidewalk expressing their desire for the city to formally call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. (James Watson)

Mayor Joines and Council members Scippio, Taylor and Mayor Pro-Tem Adams did not respond to the Old Gold & Black’s request for comment. 

The City Council meeting followed a demonstration a few hours prior outside city hall, where the same group picketed along the crosswalk. Approximately 20 people attended. 

Signs included phrases such as, “stop bombing kids” or “free Palestine.” 

Another said, “Your tax $$$ are dropping bombs on babies.”

Nedge had previously submitted a cease-fire resolution to the city in January for consideration. But neither in January nor Monday night did Mayor Allen Joines or any other members of the council comment or motion on the proposal.  

Nedge hopes the resolution will be adopted like it was in the neighboring city, Greensboro. 

“Generally when people speak about this issue, they go to Washington DC,” he said. “They asked for an appointment with someone in Congress and they’re told no and given the runaround. So what we’re trying to do is to hopefully get that at the local level, some sort of response to that. But I think even more importantly, this helps to get coverage and this also helps to get people galvanized.” 

As the demonstration unfolded Monday night, the city of Durham approved a similar resolution, becoming the second city in N.C. and joining 70 other U.S cities to do so.

“This affects all of us here locally, it’s not just an international issue,” Nedge said.

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About the Contributor
James Watson
James Watson, Arts & Culture Editor
James Watson is a sophomore from Wilmington, N.C. who plans on majoring in politics and international affairs and minoring in classical studies. Outside of OGB, James is heavily involved in state and local politics and the director of Deacs Decide on campus. A host on Wake Radio, James loves the sound of his own voice. He is also a serial tweeter.

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    MarieFeb 28, 2024 at 10:11 pm

    Let’s start to clarify this is not a israel-hamas war, this is a clear israel genocide against palestinian people!