Duluth council rejects resolution calling for cease-fire in Gaza

Duluth City Hall
The Duluth City Council voted against a cease-fire resolution in the Israel-Hamas war.
Bob Kelleher | MPR News file photo

The Duluth City Council narrowly rejected a resolution Monday calling for a cease-fire, voting 5-4 against the measure that called for a permanent end to the fighting between Israeli and Hamas forces in Gaza.

For weeks, Duluth residents have written passionate emails and spoken at council meetings urging members to pass a cease-fire resolution. Recently residents opposing the resolution have also chimed in, urging the council to focus on more pressing, local issues.

After more than two hours of additional comment Monday night, councilor Terese Tomanek echoed the majority of members in saying the council should focus on issues that more directly impact the city.

“This is where our efforts should lie,” Tomanek said. “Our time and energy should be spent where our constituents have asked them to be spent: streets, parks, the housing crisis and property taxes.”

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“I do believe firmly that council chambers are for city business,” added Council member Arik Forsman. “Because of that, I will be a ‘No.’”

Council members Azrin Awal, Wendy Durrwachter and Mike Mayou introduced the resolution, which also supported the provision of humanitarian aid and called for the release of all Israeli civilians held hostage by Hamas, and Palestinian civilians being held without charge by Israel.

Awal, who’s Muslim, said the issue was deeply personal to her, citing her ancestors who fought oppression in Bangladesh and close friends and family who are Palestinian-American.

A woman smiles in a photo
Azrin Awal, 25, is a student and immigrant from Bangladesh on Duluth's City Council.
Courtesy of Azrin Awal Campaign

“Seeing their tears does not allow me to sleep a sound sleep at night,” she said, while thanking the many Duluth residents who spoke out in favor of a cease-fire.

“I ran on principles of equity and social justice,” Awal said. “And I see this as a social justice issue that directly impacts every single one of our residents. Regardless of what side they are on, we can all agree that the loss of life and humanity is not acceptable.”

Durrwachter argued that she and fellow council members could focus both on local issues and weigh in on international matters important to their constituents.

“I think we absolutely can vote with our hearts. I think it’s not a weakness. I think it’s a strength,” she said.

At least five Minnesota cities have passed similar resolutions, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Columbia Heights, Hastings and Moorhead.