Dozens of pro-Palestinian activists attended and spoke at the Dallas City Council’s open speaker session Wednesday morning. The highly-emotional nature of the testimony resulted in multiple calls for decorum in the chamber, the removal of several speakers and the clearing of all speakers following the open session.
Most speakers advocated for the city council to introduce a resolution calling for an Israeli ceasefire in the Israel/Hamas war. On Oct. 11, the council unanimously approved a resolution “unequivocally condemning” the military group Hamas that launched an Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Most registered speakers did not disclose their home address, and many others registered as residents of various North Texas cities such as Coppell, Keller, Mansfield and Fort Worth.
“I see that everyone is dressed so festively today,” one speaker said, referencing the Christmas sweaters many council members wore to the briefing. “Reflect on your privilege to feel so festively when Christians in Gaza will not have Christmas this year.”
The first group of speakers were met with cheers and applause from the audience following each two-minute statement, leading Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson to call for decorum in the chamber.
When one speaker who identified himself as a communist in support of Palestine refused to leave the speaker’s podium after his time expired, he was escorted from the chamber. Johnson urged “let’s not do anymore of that.”
Following the man’s removal, several more speakers were able to address the council without interruption. One Dallas resident shared anecdotes from family members who live in Gaza, stating they had faced shootings and amputations from bombings.
After the open speaker session, the city council moved into the formal meeting agenda leading to vocal frustration from activists.
One audience member yelled for city council member Cara Mendelsohn to “get off her phone.” Mendelsohn has been outspoken on social media about her support for Israel since the Oct. 7 attack, and called the issue “so personal,” during the Oct. 11 resolution adoption. Mendelsohn wears a lapel pin of Texas and Israeli flags flying together during council meetings.
“This has been conducted with a lot of dignity up to this point, let’s not devolve,” Johnson said to the audience following the outburst.
When the council moved to vote to approve the former meeting’s agenda, audience members stood, jeered and chants for “ceasefire now” began in the audience.
At least one more man was removed for the chamber before Johnson called for all speakers to be removed due to the disruption. As speakers were removed from the chamber, they chanted “Ceasefire now” and “Free Free Palestine” and called for “respect” from the council. One audience member yelled the removal of speakers from the chamber was a “(expletive) joke.”
Across the United States, pro-Palestinian activists are calling for local governments to adopt ceasefire resolutions.
In Plano earlier this week, the city council meeting took an early recess before being postponed due to a disturbance during the open commentary section of the meeting. Representatives of the Islamic Circle of North America’s social justice chapter spoke at the meeting, but a recess was called after a speaker unaffiliated with the group began yelling at the Plano Mayor, who called for a recess.
According to a New York Times article posted last week, more than a dozen U.S. city councils have now passed resolutions urging a ceasefire, including several in Michigan, several in California and major cities like Atlanta and Detroit.
At this time, no such resolution has been proposed by the Dallas city council.