Residents sit in the Santa Cruz City Council chambers on Dec. 12 holding signs reading "Ceasefire" and "Jews against Zionism."

Supporters of a Gaza ceasefire resolution spoke for about four hours at a Santa Cruz City Council meeting Tuesday. (Jana Silverman – Contributed)

SANTA CRUZ >> More than 100 people filled the Santa Cruz City Council chambers Tuesday to call for a ceasefire resolution in the Israel-Hamas war. The same day, about 40 activists at a Watsonville City Council meeting and about 20 at a Santa Cruz County Supervisors meeting urged local leaders to adopt similar resolutions.

  • The Santa Cruz City Council voted to consider a ceasefire resolution at a future meeting.
  • The county supervisors voted down a ceasefire resolution. 
  • The Watsonville council did not take action on a resolution.

The calls come after the Oakland City Council on Nov. 27 adopted a symbolic resolution to end to violence in Israel and Gaza. The resolution also calls for the return of hostages, a restoration of humanitarian aid to Gaza and a condemnation of Islamophobic and antisemitic attacks.

Several other cities, such as Richmond, have adopted similar resolutions. Some advocates in Santa Cruz said city and county leaders should pressure federal representatives to back a ceasefire.

Hamas, a militant Palestinian nationalist group, attacked Israel Oct. 7 and about 1,200 people were killed, according to news reports. In Israel’s retaliation and the war that followed, more than 18,700 people in Gaza have died and up to 1.9 million people have been displaced, according to the United Nations

Santa Cruz City Council votes to consider ceasefire resolution

After more than four hours of public comment about the ceasefire at Tuesday’s Santa Cruz City Council meeting, the council voted to draft a resolution for consideration at the next council meeting. Several council members said they opposed wading into international politics.

The council voted 5-2 to consider a resolution in support of a ceasefire at a special meeting in December or at the next scheduled meeting in January. Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keely and Councilmembers Sonja Brunner, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Martine Watkins and Sandy Brown voted to consider a ceasefire resolution at a future meeting. Vice Mayor Renee Golder and Councilmember Scott Newsome voted against it.

“This would not be the first time that Santa Cruz’s City Council led the way and passed a resolution for global justice that expanded beyond our city limits,” said Santa Cruz resident Riley Collins, at Tuesday’s meeting.

In 1982, the city council declared Santa Cruz a Planetary City dedicated to solving world problems, Collins said. The council also made the city a Nuclear Free Zone in 1991. In 1985, the council forbade Santa Cruz police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in raids and reaffirmed its “sanctuary city” position in 2017.

“Do not tell me it does not matter for you to pass this resolution,” said resident Sylvie Stein. “There are Palestinians, there are Arabs, there are Muslims, there are Jews in this county, there are refugees of genocide. They want to hear from you.” 

Stein identified herself as Jewish along with about 20 other supporters who spoke. About 10 people spoke against the potential resolution at the Santa Cruz council meeting. 

“I do feel like it’s kind of beyond the scope of the city council of Santa Cruz, California to somehow affect the outcome of any world conflict,” said resident Bradley Snyder.

Many speakers urged the council to pass a resolution this month. Santa Cruz City Manager Matt Huffaker said it was unlikely. 

State laws prohibit council members from voting on a topic not on the meeting agenda. To adopt a resolution before the holidays, council members would have to draft a resolution, share it publicly and hold a special meeting by Dec. 21, Huffaker said.

Santa Cruz City Councilmember Sonja Brunner said she planned to meet with community members to help draft the resolution before the vote. “Even though we don’t make policy in foreign affairs, we can share the voices of our constituents,” she said.

Kalantari-Johnson, who grew up in Iran, said she was unsure whether she would vote to pursue a resolution. 

“I grew up in a war-torn country, I experienced bombings. So the issue is very close to my heart,” said Kalantari-Johnson. “Honestly, I don’t know what a resolution like this will do but create more divisive narratives,” she said.

Golder said Santa Cruz residents who support a ceasefire should contact state and federal representatives rather than local ones. 

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that anybody in the room thinks what’s happening in the Middle East is horrific. There’s horrific things happening all over the world,” she said. “It’s great to hear from people,” she said. “Getting involved in politics of the Middle East is not something that I feel comfortable making decisions about, or even recommendations.”

Golder added, “We have a lot of business before us this evening that is within the scope of our jurisdiction. I’ve said repeatedly that I think part of what makes people not want to run for city council is the long meetings.”

County Supervisors reject resolution

Also on Tuesday, the Santa Cruz County Supervisors voted 3-2 to reject a ceasefire resolution proposed by Supervisor Justin Cummings. 

County Supervisors Zach Friend, Manu Koenig and Bruce McPherson voted to reject the resolutions. Cummings and Felipe Hernandez voted to adopt it.

About 20 residents spoke in favor of a ceasefire resolution and five spoke against it.

“We’ve probably got hundreds, if not maybe close to 1,000 letters from the community asking for this,” Cummings said of the ceasefire resolution. “And I think that it’s important as a local government that we are responding to our community when they’re asking us to do something.”

Koenig disagreed. “I think if we want to prevent the collateral damage here in our own community, the right thing to do is not try to propose what the right answer is, but to be kind to one another right here in this room, and within this community,” Koenig said. “Send your resources and donations to those impacted by this.”

Watsonville City Council takes no action

In a Watsonville City Council meeting Tuesday, more than 40 people spoke in favor of a ceasefire resolution. Two residents said they opposed a potential resolution. 

After 40 minutes of comments from the public, council members did not comment or take any action related to a potential resolution.

After being sworn in as mayor at Tuesday’s meeting, Vanessa Quiroz-Carter said she supported a ceasefire resolution. 

“I think there are times in life when you have to look beyond politics and beyond religion and see human suffering, and that’s what I see,” she said.

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Reporter / California Local News Fellow

Jesse Kathan is a staff reporter for Santa Cruz Local through the California Local News Fellowship. They hold a master's degree in science communications from UC Santa Cruz.