Chico residents again plea for a ceasefire resolution Some students say they're facing harassment

by Natalie Hanson
posted March 21

A group of Chico residents again have called on city leaders — in a third effort — to pass a ceasefire resolution that would show support for the Palestinian community amid Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

photo by Natalie Hanson
Yahmo Aqhba: “[The war is] affecting people, killing people we know and love.”

At the meeting earlier this week (March 19), activist Rain Scher stepped to the podium to present a revised ceasefire resolution to the City Council. Scher, a member of Chico Jews in Solidarity with Palestine, pointed out that the new resolution calls for declaring that all human life is “precious.” Scher told ChicoSol that the resolution “explicity names both the Palestinian and Israeli casualties.”

“For the City Council to pass this resolution would be to make a statement of valuing Jewish and Palestinian/Muslim community members,” they added.

The Council had blocked much of the resolution discussion at meetings in October and December, with Mayor Andrew Coolidge noting that it’s their policy to only hear public comment on topics that fall within the City’s jurisdiction, not on issues deemed beyond its purview.

But in January interviews, leaders of the groups that want a resolution told ChicoSol they want city leaders to show they stand against local hate and discrimination that has been emerging as the war proceeds.

As Scher spoke to the Council at this week’s meeting, Mayor Andrew Coolidge tried to halt the discussion. “We’re not going to discuss ceasefires, we’re not going to discuss wars in other countries,” he said. “We’re going to discuss Chico issues.”

But Scher continued on, saying that multiple Chico nonprofits, faith leaders and business groups — including members of the Downtown Chico Business Association — signed the resolution to demonstrate that various local interests want their representatives to consider their concerns.

photo by Natalie Hanson
Rain Scher at the March 19 meeting.

“All of the issues that are pertinent to the people within the city should matter to the City Council,” Scher said. “You stand in opposition to even hearing those things, when almost 100 cities feel differently from you.”

California cities like Richmond and San Francisco have passed such resolutions, and at the end of January, Reuters reported: “Some 70 U.S. cities … have passed resolutions on the Israel-Gaza war with most calling for a ceasefire … placing more pressure on President Joe Biden ahead of a November general election to help end the fighting.”

The proposed resolution in Chico says that taxpayers call for “members of the California Federal Delegation” to advocate for measures to reduce “death and violence,” referring to the elected members of Congress representing this state.

photo by Natalie Hanson
Chris Nelson

Chico Peace Alliance activist Chris Nelson agreed, pointing out that city councils in Sacramento and El Cerrito were also discussing ceasefire resolutions that same evening. She was quickly interrupted by Coolidge, who spoke over her to adjourn the meeting for several minutes. When Council members returned, Coolidge warned that if there was more unpermitted discussion the city would clear the chamber.

But another citizen, Yahmo Aqhba, a member of the Chico Palestinian Advocacy Network, promptly brought the topic back.

“You’ve come in and you’ve said you’re not going to represent the issues that hundreds of city councils do regularly. You’re one of the last lines of defense for us,” Aqhba said. “We’re the ones supposed to be telling you how to represent us. You’re in public service. When we’re saying ‘It’s affecting people, killing people we know and love,’ you should be listening.”

photo by Natalie Hanson
Mayor Andrew Coolidge

Amid calls for “Free, free Palestine,” Coolidge again recessed the meeting, this time ending the discussion.

At a Dec. 5 meeting, high school students told the Council that they face immediate impacts from the bombing of Gaza, with an increased number of both antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents. A student who identified herself as Shandana said she and her peers do not feel safe “as Arabs living in Chico.”

“I’m dealing with this, and so are my friends who go to Chico High,” Shandana said, adding that she thinks the resolution would serve as an acknowledgement that the war affects life in Chico. “Do you just not agree with writing a statement to make us feel safe?

“We’re facing a lot of discrimination just based on our faith and what we look like.”

“I have been called ‘bomber’ … Where are we supposed to turn?” – Ramzia

Another student, Ramzia, described her own experience with Islamophobia: “I have been called ‘bomber’ and had my hijab almost ripped off. Where are we exactly supposed to turn?”

At that meeting, Scher also described to city leaders their experience as a Jew who was born in Jerusalem.

“This is a matter of public interest and that is certainly within your purview,” Scher said. “It speaks for the protection of both Israeli and Palestinian lives. That speaks to our local community here.”

Shaheera, a Butte College student, said at that meeting that she has heard from multiple Chico High School students as well as Chico State and Butte College students about incidents of harassment.

In an interview later, Shaheera declined to provide her last name because of concerns about harassment. She formed the organization Swanasa Advocates as a way for students to feel supported and share their stories as Palestinian Americans in Chico.

Scher said the City has been “unwilling to make any significant comment to the effect of caring about these marginalized communities. To do so would cost them nothing, so why won’t they?”

The Sacramento City Council passed a ceasefire resolution at its March 19 meeting after a discussion that was described as “heated.”

Earlier this month, Chico State’s student government also successfully passed a similar resolution.

Natalie Hanson is a contributing editor to ChicoSol.

2 thoughts on “Chico residents again plea for a ceasefire resolution Some students say they're facing harassment

  1. The Chico City Council certainly “cherry picks” the topics it deems within its “purview”.

    A few years ago, a local group wanted Council support (and got it) for their placement of huge banners on utility poles on East Ave. honoring local military service members. The arguments over the issue at City Council meetings revealed the stark differences between those Chicoans who support the military as crucial to protecting our American way of life, and those who are opposed to the military’s cost in destroyed lives.

    The Chicoans who are asking for support of the Gaza ceasefire resolution should be no less honored by City Council for their efforts towards ending war than the Chico Military Heroes group were for their banner display celebrating those who engage in war.

    The hypocrisy is nauseating.

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