The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW Students for Justice in Palestine urges Fredericksburg City Council to introduce and vote on ceasefire resolution

5 min read
A woman talking on the mic in front of audiences

UMW students and community members alike convened in City Hall to stand in solidarity with SJP. | Norah Walsh, The Weekly Ringer

by Norah Walsh


“Will you go home tonight and tell your kids about their 15,000 fellow children in Gaza brutally murdered in the past six months, or are their stories not worth a spot on your bedtime agenda?” asked junior political science major and President of UMW Students for Justice in Palestine Amirah Ahmed, addressing the Fredericksburg City Council members at an open meeting on March 26. 

UMW Students for Justice in Palestine convened in the lower level of Fredericksburg City Hall at 7:30 p.m., waiting for the public comments portion of the evening to begin. Their goal was to encourage the City of Fredericksburg to raise and pass a ceasefire resolution bill—following in the footsteps of at least 100 cities, towns and villages across the U.S., according to The Nation

Ahmed began her public comments by recounting events from Gaza, such as Israel’s bombing of al-Shifa Hospital on March 18. Israel initiated the attack under the belief that Hamas was using the hospital as a bunker from which to command their counterattacks, and “about 30,000 people, including displaced civilians, wounded patients, and medical staff are trapped inside the complex,” according to Al Jazeera. 

Ahmed continued, relaying a story of a woman there who was forced to undress, raped and threatened by Israeli soldiers—an event “that is all too common in the brutality of the current genocide,” she said. 

Rebecca Brinkman, a community member affiliated with SJP who read a statement during the session, also deemed the events in Gaza a ‘genocide.’ 

She said, “The inaction this Council plays a part of is going to become very telling for the days to come when you still continue to choose to be silent and complicit while a genocide is happening in Palestine.”

The use of the term “genocide” to label the events in Palestine has been a fraught topic, especially following the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attacks. 

In an interview, Professor Nabil Al-Tikriti in the UMW History Department explained that the Israeli government has destroyed contemporary, governmental archival records that consist of “birth records, death records—administrative things that any government would want.” 

He continued, “And that, as I see it, is a step to erase reality, and in effect, to erase the Palestinian presence in Gaza altogether—which qualifies as a form of genocide. And it is part of a broader picture where the Israelis are engaging in a process that could be described as ‘genocide.’” 

But even when events occur and are reported on, labeling them as ‘a genocide’ is still a difficult task. 

“The problem with genocide is that you can’t really define it until it’s done. So they’re in the process of it, they haven’t completed it, but once they’ve completed it, it is too late,” said Al-Tikriti. 

Community members and student activists alike showed up at the meeting to speak or merely to lend their support. 

Michael, a Palestinian community member who asked for his last name to be withheld for anonymity, attended the open meeting in support of SJP. After the meeting, he spoke on the importance of using the word ‘genocide’ to discuss the nature of the attacks against the Palestinian people in Gaza. 

“I think it’s important to label it a genocide because there’s the purposeful mislabeling or not labeling as a genocide,” he said. “I consider it a genocide because it’s all-encompassing, it’s all-encroaching, and it really is. It really is made to destroy the fabric of Palestinian existence and Palestinian life.”

In a statement submitted by Alexanna Hengy and read aloud by Clerk of Council and City FOIA Officer Tonya B. Lacey, Hengy addressed Fredericksburg’s commitment to environmental justice. 

“Passing this resolution is also a powerful way of showing that Fredericksburg actually believes in saving our planet, and the goals and values included in climate resolutions you passed were something you actually believe and are committed to achieving,” wrote Hengy. “You have a responsibility to speak up and protect our citizens [and] the planet, and send the right message to the higher levels of our government and to Fredericksburg sister cities that Fredericksburg is an engaged and caring member of the global community.”

Students for Justice in Palestine have been protesting on campus to convince UMW administration to call for a ceasefire resolution, but their efforts have been unsuccessful. Furthermore, even in the wake of UMW student protesters being doxxed, the University’s response has been ineffective in meeting their needs.  

Sasho Radoulov, a junior geography major, addressed these concerns with the City Council and argued why the City of Fredericksburg should support a ceasefire resolution. 

“Student activists have been doxxed, and their safety and privacy have been compromised. This has been met with no support … by the UMW administration,” he said. “But the City of Fredericksburg has the opportunity to make it known that Fredericksburg is a city that has the backs of its Arab, Muslim and Jewish students.”

During her statement, Ahmed addressed the Council members on their disparate support of Ukraine compared to Palestine, reading Fredericksburg City’s Resolution 22. According to the resolution, “The City of Fredericksburg proudly stands alongside Ukraine, its people, and its leaders during this horrific and unnecessary war, and vows to support Ukraine and hold Russia fully accountable for its catastrophic decision to invade.”

Ahmed asked, “What makes the murder of 10,000 civilians in Ukraine over the span of two years more tragic and deserving of a statement than the slaughter of 40,000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza over the span of six months?” 

Brinkman continued to press the councilors on the issue. 

“You say that [a ceasefire resolution] is out of your hands, falling under a state issue, but yet you were able to do this for Ukraine,” she said. “How are Palestinians any different?”

After their comments, student protesters waited outside the Courthouse for council members to leave the chamber. Upon their exit, protesters erupted with chants, such as “Ceasefire now” and “Shame on you,” as the councilors walked to their cars. 

During the session, Councilor Timothy P. Duffy gave his business card to Ahmed, and he visited the protesters outside City Hall after the meeting had concluded. Councilor Jannan W. Holmes also approached the group after the session to offer her business card, but Ahmed turned it down, citing SJP’s many calls and emails to city councilors that have gone without a response, showing no actionable proof of meeting to discuss the resolution.