Mayor Brandon Johnson Breaks 23-23 City Council Tie to Call for Cease-Fire in Israel-Hamas War Amid Intense Debate

Mayor Brandon Johnson broke a 23-23 tie vote by the Chicago City Council by voting yes on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza at a special City Council meeting that spilled out of control.

Chicago is now the largest American city to adopt a cease-fire resolution, joining Minneapolis, San Francisco, Oakland, Atlanta and Detroit. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey vetoed the resolution calling for a cease-fire on Wednesday.

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“Be it resolved, that we, the members of the Chicago City Council, do hereby call for a permanent ceasefire to end the ongoing violence in Gaza; call for humanitarian assistance including medicine, food and water, to be sent into the impacted region; and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” the resolution reads.

The resolution does not have the force of law but expresses the collective will of the City Council.

In October, the City Council condemned Hamas’ attack on Israel at a special City Council meeting that also spilled out of control.

Johnson joined the call for a cease-fire on Jan. 24, endorsing the resolution authored by two of his closest allies, Alds. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward) and Daniel La Spata. Both Rodriguez Sanchez and La Spata condemned the Oct. 7 attacks launched by Hamas against Israel, which killed 1,200 Jews, and said they mourned the deaths of more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to figures provided by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.

The resolution puts the Chicago City Council and Johnson at odds with President Joe Biden, who has resisted calls for a cease-fire and is set to be nominated for a second term in August at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

“Do I believe that the words that we speak today, how we vote today, influences directly international policy? I don’t. I don’t have those illusions,” Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) said. “But we vote with hope, we vote with solidarity, we vote to help people feel heard in a world of silence.”

The vote came over the objections of Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th Ward), the only Jewish member of the Chicago City Council, which has never had a Muslim member. 

“We all want peace in the Middle East and an end to the bloodshed and an end to the war,” Silverstein said.

But, she argued, any resolution should require Hamas to be disarmed and prevented from launching future attacks on Israel and call for the immediate and unconditional release of the more than 100 Israelis still being held hostage by Hamas.

Silverstein urged her colleagues not to weaken the Biden administration, noting that the U.S. voted against a similar measure at the United Nations, known as “Uniting for Peace.” Silverstein also criticized the mayor during her remarks, saying she was disappointed that he did not work to unify the City Council.

During her remarks, Silverstein graphically described what she called the “brutal and depraved” attack by Hamas, repeating contested claims that babies were targeted and rape was used as a weapon of war.

Those remarks prompted members of the public, many wearing keffiyehs and olive green T-shirts calling for peace to disrupt the meeting, with one man calling Silverstein a liar and linking her remarks to the murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian boy in Plainfield. Wadee Alfayoumi was murdered by his family’s landlord in what prosecutors have called a hate crime motivated by anti-Muslim bias.

That prompted Johnson to make good on the threat he issued after the first sustained outburst by supporters of the cease-fire resolution to clear the chambers of members of the public.

After a recess of nearly an hour, members of the public were allowed into the third-floor gallery overlooking the Council Chambers from behind a glass partition, and the meeting resumed without another interruption.

The vote came the day after hundreds of high school students walked out of school to protest Israel’s decision to respond to Hamas’ attacks with a full-scale retaliatory bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip, chanting “Long live Gaza,” and “Viva viva, Palestina.”

In other action, allies of Johnson delayed a planned vote on whether to reaffirm their rejection of an effort backed by the city’s largest police union to upend the system used for 60 years to punish officers. That effort, which stalled last week, remains in limbo despite the endorsement Tuesday of a key City Council committee.

A vote on a measure designed to crack down on dollar stores was also delayed at the request of the measure’s author, Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th Ward).

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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