Despite comment ban, Gaza ceasefire resolution a focus at Evansville City Council

EVANSVILLE — Inside Evansville City Council chambers, local residents can't speak on a resolution supporting a ceasefire in Gaza, but out in front of the Civic Center is a different story.

Those gathered for the "People's City Council" event held by the Palestine Solidarity Coalition of Southern Indiana were told, "if you have something you want to say, the floor is yours."

Several people took them up on that offer, with the group meeting half an hour before Monday's regular Evansville City Council meeting and remaining outside as attendees left.

Meeting outside, instead of in council chambers, came after city's council May 20 meeting when council president Zac Heronemus (D-Third Ward) said public comment on the ceasefire resolution proposed to council would no longer be allowed. The resolution does not have the three sponsors required to come to the council floor for discussion.

Evansville residents have been coming to city council for weeks seeking support for a Gaza ceasefire resolution first proposed by the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. The non-binding resolution would state, in part, "council desires a lasting bilateral ceasefire, release of all hostages, and unrestricted humanitarian aid."

The Evansville City Council meets Monday, June 10, 2024.
The Evansville City Council meets Monday, June 10, 2024.

One of those people regularly attending has been Barton Heath. Monday, he attended both the "People's City Council" and the city council meeting inside the Civic Center.

Heath told those gathered outside the Civic Center he believes council will regret not committing to the resolution. He said he planned to speak inside, both to apologize to council for an "outburst" during the last meeting and to bring up a couple of issues he has with their processes.

"Since I'm prohibited from speaking the truth, I'll just speak about some other truths," Heath said.

Inside, during the public comment portion of the meeting, Heath said he was upset during the previous meeting about council's "vote on a vote."

Instead of voting on the subject matter in the ceasefire resolution, Heath said the council instead voted not to vote by ending public comment.

"That is what I called cowardice, that process of protecting yourself from ever taking a stance," he said. "The reason you had increased participation (at meetings) is because you never voted no on the subject. They see that as possibility that they can do some good participating."

Council member Alex Burton (D-Fourth Ward), who previously told the Courier & Press his focus "is dedicated to addressing issues and/or concerns and proposing policy that directly impacts those that I represent," reiterated his position on the resolution after Heath spoke. Missy Mosby (D-Second Ward) did as well. Both declined to sponsor the resolution.

"Even at the federal level, they don't even know what direction they're going in," Burton said. "To ask us, this body, to take a stance, yes it's peace, but to take a stance on something our federal government hasn't figured out, though they're working in that direction."

Burton said perhaps when there is a plan at the federal level local councilors will want to sponsor something locally.

This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Ceasefire resolution discussed in, out of Evansville City Council