A Plano City Council meeting made headlines yesterday for its early recess and postponement to today, following a disturbance during the open commentary section of the meeting. Members of the Islamic Circle of North America’s social justice chapter, however, said that their scheduled time to speak wasn’t intended to go that way at all.
Representatives from the Islamic Circle of North America’s social justice chapter said the group came to the city council Tuesday to advocate for peace in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
The group is proposing a resolution that the City of Plano join other cities in supporting U.S. Congress Resolution H.R. 786, which calls for members of the United States Congress to demand an immediate ceasefire; a release of all hostages; unrestricted entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza; restoration of food, water, electricity, fuel and medical supplies to Gaza; respect for international law and a call for a resolution that protects the security of all innocent civilians.
“A permanent and lasting peace in the region can only be achieved when both Israel and Palestine can live free, independent and secure in an environment that honors the hopes, aspirations and lives of both people,” the resolution states.
After over a dozen speakers discussed the topic, an unscheduled speaker who was not affiliated with the ICNA group went up to the stand. Because the time for public speakers had passed and she was not signed up to speak, ICNA group members said.
“We were also dismayed and disturbed by that lady. She was supporting the call for ceasefire, but not in the right way,” Obaid Siddiqui, a Plano resident and one of the speakers at last night’s meeting. “We use this 30 minute time to convey to the council grievances and the impact of antisemitism and islamophobia that is also being felt by the people in the aftermath… this was peaceful, respectful communication to the city and to the public.”
Siddiqui also mentioned that many scheduled speakers were looking forward to the statement that Muns began to make before the recess was called due to the disturbance. The woman who caused the disturbance has not been identified at this time.
Plano PD sent out a press release this morning indicating that a backpack was left in the room during the recess and that a Hazardous Device Unit was called out of an abundance of caution. The department has not yet responded to a request for comment on whether this is standard practice for a bag left behind in a council meeting or whether the unit being called was spurred by the disturbance that caused the recess.
The meeting returned on Dec. 12 at 4:30 p.m., passing all motions and items that were up for vote. Council members did not comment on yesterday’s events during the meeting.
While the resolution being proposed was not on the agenda, it is part of the group’s multi-city efforts to encourage city councils across North Texas to adopt resolutions supporting the ceasefire and is modeled after one recently passed by a city council in Oakland, Calif., group leader Naila Syed said. Oakland’s resolution was passed in their city council on Nov. 27, with identical language calling for a ceasefire and condemning the “recent rise of antisemitic, islamophobic, racist, homophobic and xenophobic attacks” in Oakland and elsewhere.
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.
While those backing local resolutions hope that enough local pressure would demonstrate to the White House that voters do not support the United States’ financial backing of the Israeli military, opponents say that local governments don’t have enough power to affect change. Opponents say calls for ceasefire and withdrawal of support for the Israeli military promotes antisemitism. Supporters say that local resolutions could take a step toward minimizing antisemitism along with islamophobia and noted that cities like Dallas were quick to approve resolutions condemning the attack by Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7, which also called for peace in the Middle East and the return of hostages from Hamas, but not Israel. Members of ICNA noted that Plano Mayor John Muns made a statement shortly after Oct. 7 condemning Hamas, and that statements about international events were not unprecedented for the council.
“Hate crimes have been occurring across the country over the past two months,” Naila Syed said. “This kind of stuff impacts [from the] top down.”
Syed began working on the resolution in Allen first, then moving to Murphy, Richardson, Irving and now Plano. The goal, Syed said, is to show up to a town hall every week along with residents from each city to advocate for the resolution and support the to ask them to adopt the resolution.
“We have civically-engaged residents who are reaching out to their own council members who they already know,” Syed said. “[We are] very aware of the process to approach the council members individually, make an appointment, write a resolution, once they agree to sponsor it, it goes on the agenda and then the council members take a vote. But at this point, the government is about to shut down for two weeks and the death toll in Gaza is rising by hundreds to thousands per day… we just don’t have the time.”