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Santa Ana City Council Meeting Descends into Chaos Over Divisive Ceasefire Resolution

Fiery exchanges between Councilmembers, stories of racial hatred, and police intervention underscore a meeting where municipal affairs were vastly overshadowed by political theatrics.

Tensions ran high throughout the March 5, 2024 Santa Ana City Council Meeting as the Council continued discussion of a ceasefire resolution between Israel and Gaza. The resolution, which was deadlocked when it was first introduced in December 2023, ultimately passed — but only after two hours of intense public comment that included emotional stories and impassioned pleas.

While some residents expressed concerns that the resolution could contribute to antisemitic acts, others urged for its approval as a show of support for Palestine. However, the most common sentiment was confusion and frustration over why the City Council was spending time and resources on a matter that falls far outside its jurisdiction.

“I’m really concerned — and I hope all voters are concerned — that the City Council is spending so much time and effort on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which has nothing to do with this city,” said resident Sue Willford. “You need to be spending your time on local issues; in particular, the looming financial disaster that threatens all city services.”

“In cities all around the country where these resolutions pass, small businesses become targeted with mobs of people demanding store owners breach their contracts with suppliers by pulling products off shelves or violate the Civil Rights Act by refusing services to people of certain nationalities,” said one resident only identified as Robin. “These resolutions harm local businesses and make local families feel unsafe.” 

“In recent months, we’ve observed with heavy hearts the use of these chambers for rhetoric that not only divides us, but echoes antisemitic sentiments,” said Dr. Erik Ludwig, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Orange County. “This alarming trend, exacerbated by discussions misaligned with the Council’s purpose, has necessitated increased security in our schools and places of worship — and has emboldened bullying acts against our children.”

"I've never been one to be very intellectual, but I feel deeply and I think that we are all being held hostage by the situation and I think that this is affecting our entire humanity. It's affecting our soil, the land, the trees, the indigenous land, the indigenous people, and that absolutely crosses over here,” said one resident identified only as Kelly. “I teach ancestral skills to children and I am a trauma healer and I'm telling you this will not go away… So I'm calling for a ceasefire now and that you respect that so that we are not all hostages to heartlessness anymore and that we can return to our humanity for real."

“If you choose to block this resolution, just know we’re gonna come back,” said Santa Ana resident and self-proclaimed Marxist Fernando DeVeras.

The uproar and discontent only worsened after public comments concluded. During the Council’s concluding remarks, Councilman Johnathan Hernandez, one of the resolution’s architects, furthered the divisive and unhelpful rhetoric.

"I want to remind my neighbors and my colleagues that every centimeter of this room is stolen native land," said Councilman Hernandez.

He then went on to list each of the dozens of cities in the U.S. that have called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. While this was likely done as a show of unity, it only highlighted how futile the many ceasefire appeals have been in ending the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After the resolution passed, Councilman Benjamin Vazquez thanked the public. This resulted in cheers and clamoring between attendees which quickly became unruly. At this time, Councilman Hernandez left his seat at the dais and joined the crowd for the next ten minutes prior to adjournment. He can be seen shaking hands with members of the pro-Palestinian group. Mayor Valerie Amezcua called upon Santa Ana Police Department officers to restore order and walk concerned residents to their cars.

“If anybody is touching anybody, I’m sorry, but they should be arrested,” said Mayor Amezcua. “Let’s get out peacefully. You guys got what you wanted, so go out peacefully. You say you’re peaceful, but you’re not. You’re not peaceful. You say it all the time, but you are not peaceful.”

Turning towards Amezcua, Councilwoman Jessie Lopez then said: “Please stop. Everybody needs to stop inciting that type of language.” It is unclear if this was directed at the public or at Amezcua.

“Excuse me. I’m the Chair of this meeting. Do not — I don’t interrupt you,” Amezcua responded.

“I can speak,” Lopez shot back.

“We’re in public, we heard comments, and if they can’t go out peacefully, it is my responsibility to make sure they do,” said Amezcua. “So we’re done.”

Ultimately, this fiery exchange perfectly encapsulates the divisive nature of the ceasefire resolution. It was an unfortunate but telling way to end a meeting where municipal affairs were vastly overshadowed by dramatic exchanges between activists, stories of racial hatred, and pleas for the Council to rein in the domineering political theatrics.


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