The Howard County Council failed to pass a resolution on a cease-fire in Gaza with a 3-1 vote against the resolution during a nighttime session of the council on Feb. 5, which saw opposing groups of protesters show out in full force to the George Howard Building in Ellicott City to declare their positions loudly and contentiously to each other and the council members.
The resolution, titled Resolution 22-2024, was introduced by Liz Walsh, vice chair of the council, and called for the Biden administration to “facilitate certain humanitarian assistance into Gaza” and urged political leaders to use their power to end the humanitarian crisis, in addition to demanding a cease-fire.
The introduction of the resolution and a controversial decision by the council to quickly put the matter up to a vote and not take public comments saw well over 100 people show up, with protests beginning over an hour before the vote.
“I’m hoping that they [the Howard County Council] will reject an antisemitic resolution that’s one-sided, hostile to Howard County’s Jews and un-American,” said Dave Albert, an anti-resolution protester, before the vote took place.
Albert said that he was against the resolution because it failed to mention the hostages or Hamas and mischaracterizes the position of U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin as calling for an immediate cease-fire, ignoring the condition of hostage return Raskin placed on his call.
On the other side of a small traffic cone barrier attempting to separate the two groups outside the doors of the building, pro-resolution protesters were chanting their support for the people of Gaza and the end to the war, hopeful the council would be able to take a show of support for their position.
“If local governments pass cease-fire resolutions, it will raise the political temperature down the river in Washington in a way that it needs to be raised, because honestly, I can’t save any lives no matter how loud I yell. But this [Israeli military action] is, as far as I’m concerned, is genocide,” said David Wolinsky, a Jewish pro-resolution protester, before the vote.
As the vote drew nearer, the protests outside got increasingly heated, with people having to be separated several times after running at each other screaming, waving flags and shedding tears of anger and frustration.
That tension persisted as both parties filed into the council meeting room, intermingling as they took their seats. A palpable dislike between the groups and suppressed anger were evident as the protesters, flanked by police officers around the room, silently waited for the council members to begin their legislative business.
Resolution 22-2024 was the last item on the agenda, and the announcement that the council was bringing it up for a vote caused murmurs to sweep through the crowd. These murmurs quickly turned into cries and shouts of indignation from the anti-resolution group as Walsh read out the provisions of the resolution and her reasoning behind them.
These outbursts caused Deb Jung, the council chair, to restore order repeatedly and threaten to have security remove the repeat offenders so that the statements made by the council members could be heard.
Jung was the first to vote after Walsh introduced the bill. She voted against it and was interrupted several times by the pro-resolution crowd, as she explained that, while she is praying for a cease-fire and a peaceful end to the conflict, she didn’t feel a county resolution was an appropriate way to deal with this issue.
Jung added that she understood the pain and passion that was felt by both sides over this issue, highlighting the fact that her office had received over 800 emails on the matter, but that she was sticking with her position.
“I believe the use of a County Council resolution is inappropriate for such an issue and will likely create unnecessary division in our community without any real possibility of advancing the prospects of peace,” Jung said during her statement.
Upon the first no vote, many of the pro-resolution supporters began to file out with cries of “Shame” and “Cowards,” with their hands painted red raised in the air.
Councilmembers Opel Jones and David Yungman, the other two present voting members, followed suit with Jung, to significant displeasure from the remaining pro-resolution crowd, who quickly filed out after the other no votes were cast.
Jones added that he would like to see a well-ironed-out statement from county leaders on the cease-fire, but that he did not support the resolution as it currently stood.
Walsh, the one vote in support, said that she saw the matter as a local issue and pointed to constituents who have family or other people they care about in Gaza who are being impacted. Walsh said she did not understand why her fellow councilmembers did not view the issue the same or why the resolution was controversial.
After the vote, pro-resolution protesters waited outside the exit and chanted “genocide supporters” with megaphones and speakers at their opponents as they left.
While there were no public comments taken before the vote, WMAR 2 News reported that there will be a public forum on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Meadowbrook Athletic Complex.