Council meeting shut down after pro-Palestinian protesters call for minute’s silence

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

Pro-Palestinian protests saw a council meeting evacuated after campaigners began shouting from the public gallery.

A Greenwich full council meeting on Wednesday was adjourned after protesters interrupted the proceedings by asking for a one-minute’s silence for those who have died in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The disruption began during the public questions section of the meeting, when resident Susan Phasey asked a written question on what the council was doing to counteract the rise in Islamophobia seen since the October 7 attacks in Israel.

Ms Phasey said: “In respect to the Palestinian victims, also of hate crimes, culminating in the ongoing genocide against Gaza for which we shall continue to request an immediate and permanent ceasefire and a release of the illegally held Palestinian prisoners and an end to the occupation, we kindly ask for all here to stand with us for a minute’s silence now.”

The silence was quickly interrupted by Mayor of Greenwich Dominic Mbang, who claimed the request was not related to the initial question asked. Members of the public then began shouting phrases from the gallery such as, ‘We stand with Palestine,’ and, ‘It’s not about anti-Semitism. This is about anti-apartheid.’

The meeting was adjourned after protesters refused to stop shouting from the gallery.

The meeting was adjourned after protesters called for a minute’s silence (Picture: Greenwich council)

After the protesters were escorted out of the chamber, the meeting was resumed. The mayor said the remaining time allocated for questions would be skipped by agreement of all parties due to the disruption.

Another Greenwich council meeting was evacuated on December 6 after attendees started chanting, ‘Ceasefire now,’ from the public gallery.

In the week afterwards, more than half of the Greenwich Labour Group made a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank and for all hostages to be released. The group included 32 councillors.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer previously claimed he felt a ceasefire would encourage further attacks from Hamas against Israel. However, he said in a statement on December 22 that he welcomed the United Nations Security Council’s approval for a resolution to be sought in the conflict, and called the horrors of the war ‘intolerable’.

Greenwich council leader Anthony Okereke said in a statement on October 20 that the authority’s condolences go to all people affected by the conflict in Israel and Gaza. He added that the complex and long-standing issue had resulted in the ‘unnecessary loss’ of thousands of lives.

Regarding the protest on December 6, a Greenwich council spokeswoman said: “We understand there is strong feeling on both sides of the conflict and that people have a right to express those views.

“The council has a longstanding relationship with faith leaders in our community and they recently came together in an act of solidarity and to call for a speedy and peaceful resolution to this conflict.”

Pictured top: Susan Phasey requested the silence during the public questions section of the meeting (Picture: Greenwich council)

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