Home ‘Killing is wrong’: Harrisonburg City Council supports resolution for cease fire in Gaza
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‘Killing is wrong’: Harrisonburg City Council supports resolution for cease fire in Gaza

Crystal Graham
resolution hburg conflict cease fire
Image courtesy City of Harrisonburg, captured from video

Harrisonburg City Council passed a resolution at its meeting Tuesday night calling for an immediate cease fire in Gaza and Israel.

Harrisonburg, a refugee resettlement city, is the first city in Virginia to pass a resolution calling for an end to the violence.

While the vote was 5-0 in favor of the resolution, Council members pointed to the volume of emails, public speakers, public demonstrations and community dialogue as the impetus to do something.

Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed said due to the “urgent” nature of the document, she would hand-deliver it to U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

“As I’ve stated before, I’m not a fan of resolutions, and I’ve given my reasons why,” Reed said. “I do understand that a resolution is necessary for many of you. It is important to me, as your mayor, to understand your pain, so I had to take my personal feelings out of it and listen to both communities.”

Reed said she wants to use her platform “to elevate voices who need to be heard or feel like they haven’t been heard.”

Reed encouraged Harrisonburg residents on both sides of the conflict to continue discussions and not let this resolution be the end to the conversations.

“I know that with whatever happens this evening with a resolution, you’re still going to be praying. There’s still going to be trauma. There’s still going to be people hurting,” Reed said before the vote.

Vice Mayor Laura Dent and City Council member Monica Robinson worked together to draft the resolution with the community, and peace and healing, in mind.

“We didn’t want to have any language that was blaming or divisive or even specific as to dates and numbers, because those in themselves can be triggering,” said Dent.

The goal, Robinson said, was to write a resolution that they felt spoke to the entire community and not one side or the other.

“Your words were heard,” Robinson said.

Both sides would agree to stop killing people, for example.

“You don’t really need to know the history of the conflict to understand that killing is wrong,” Robinson said.

City Council member Dany Fleming said that he was appreciative of the difficult conversations that took place in Harrisonburg as part of the process that led to the resolution.

“We, as a council, we have people from conflicts all over the world, and as a council, we can’t understand the depths of all of those conflicts,” Fleming said. “But it’s important that we make an effort to try to understand our community.”

Fleming said that he thought it was possible that the language in the resolution may fall short of what some people wanted to see, however he said, “it doesn’t lessen the impact of what this is.”

“The goal is to give this to our congressional and Senate delegation, so it’s to the White House,” Fleming said. “I think the impact will be that the City of Harrisonburg, if we do approve this, is sending that forward to them.

“I don’t dismiss the impact that this can have, because I thought about it,” he said. “For me, the impact of this, it needed to be greater than what the damage that could happen in our community.

“I do believe that the effort that everyone here has made has been really powerful and potentially something very positive in our community.”

Councilor Christopher Jones admitted that the subject matter was beyond what he knew and what he thought was the scope of his role on City Council.

“This conversation was beyond me,” Jones said. “I was elected as a local elected official. I am not a senator. I’m not a congressperson. And so these types of conversations quite honestly make me uncomfortable.”

Jones encouraged those who organized in support of the resolution to become involved in other matters in the city including the budget and schools.

“If your voice can be heard to make such an impact, that the mayor is delivering a message for you to one of our senators, imagine what your voice could do if you showed up on a consistent basis in your local community for your children, and for yourselves, and for your employer and for your own business.

“I just want you to digest the power that you have, and that you’re displaying on a more regular basis,” Jones said, “because then you can start to see the gravity of democracy.”

The passage of the resolution comes after a public outpouring of support in Harrisonburg across faith and ethnic backgrounds. The last two council meetings on Jan. 23 and Feb. 13 were attended by approximately 100 residents, many of whom spoke about the need for a cease fire and a City Council resolution. Last week, nearly 200 people joined in song outside City Council chambers in a peaceful protest organized by Mennonite Action.

Dr. Daroon Jalil moved to Harrisonburg in the 1990s from Northern Iraq and was proud of Harrisonburg leaders for being the first in Virginia to give voice to its community on the issue.

“As Kurds, my family and I came to this friendly city to seek refuge from a similar violence that Palestinians face today,” Jalil said. “I have always been proud to call Harrisonburg my home for the past 25 years but never as proud as I am today.”

The resolution


WHEREAS, all human life is precious, and the targeting of civilians, no matter their faith or ethnicity, is a violation of international humanitarian law; and

WHEREAS, Gaza and Israel have already experienced tremendous loss of life, displacement, and violence, and hundreds of thousands of lives are at imminent risk; and WHEREAS, the City of Harrisonburg prides ourselves in being a City for All. As a refugee resettlement city, we are deeply affected by the turmoil in Gaza and Israel; and

WHEREAS, the Federal Government holds immense diplomatic and appropriations powers to save Palestinian and Israeli lives;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that Harrisonburg City Council, on behalf of our community, implores our US Congressional delegation, both in the Senate and House of Representatives, to join us in urging the Biden administration to: 1) Immediately call for a cease-fire to urgently end the current violence; and 2) Promptly send and facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza; and, 3) Negotiate the release of hostages.

AND, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the City of Harrisonburg values the harmony that exists in our diverse community, and advocates for the dignity and safety of all residents, regardless of religion, race, or nation of origin; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Harrisonburg City Council asks the City Clerk to quickly forward copies of this resolution to the President of the United States and Harrisonburg’s Congressional Delegation.

Adopted this 27th day of February, 2024

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.