Charlottesville City Council Refuses to Oppose Genocide for Disturbing Reasons

Monday night (video here), three of five City Council Members in Charlottesville, Virginia, voted No on a resolution (in agenda packet here) in support of a ceasefire in Gaza.

Council Members Michael Payne and Natalie Oschrin put the resolution on the agenda and spoke well in support of it.

But Council Members Lloyd Snook, Brian Pinkston, and Juandiego Wade voted No.

Snook claimed to have no competence in foreign policy, spreading what is a pernicious idea in a supposedly self-governing land, namely the idea that matters of mass-murder should be left to the experts who know better than we do. Snook nonetheless claimed to have written letters to U.S. Senators that we supporters of the resolution for a ceasefire would have agreed with — an odd thing to do as an incompetent person on foreign policy. Snook also tried to offer an analysis of the Nazi rally several years ago in Charlottesville, while simultaneously claiming that no such analysis is possible given the multitude of different perspectives.

Pinkston professed to be unable to “suss out a notion as large as genocide” (as if the International Court of Justice hadn’t done it for him, as if it hadn’t been on everyone’s screens for months). He claimed to believe that the Biden Administration would figure out what to do sooner or later even if everyone else maintained silence and stayed out of the way. (Go, team democracy!)

Then Pinkston made one of the most disturbing comments of the evening — an evening in which intelligent, morally engaged people had discussed genocidal horrors in detail. Pinkston said that he wants to protect Charlottesville from things like that Nazi rally, and that passing a resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza might put a target on Charlottesville. Snook had made a similar point claiming that Charlotttesville’s mayor in 2017 calling the city the “capital of the resistance” [to Trump] had not worked out well.

It seems that Pinkston and Snook are making decisions out of fear of pro-Trump, pro-Nazi violence. They’re not just refusing to call for an end to genocide, but bowing to intimidation from genocidal thugs.

What a shame.

What a disgrace.

Fortunately, both before and after the vote on Monday, numerous eloquent Charlottesville residents spoke in support of the ceasefire resolution. And they promised to come back again and again and again. So, clearly, voting No will not prove a means of avoiding the topic or moving on to “appropriate local issues.” Of course, it’s possible that those No votes were in part motivated by something else, namely the fact that the man on the throne in the White House is a Democrat. Charlottesville has passed numerous resolutions on foreign policy in the past when a Republican ruled in Washington.

These were my remarks at the City Council meeting on Monday:

I’ve asked this City to pass resolutions on

and this City has done so, sometimes improving what we asked for, often leading the nation and inspiring other cities.

Local and state governments are supposed to represent constituents to higher levels of government, as allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, also known as the Jefferson Manual because of who created it.

In 1967 a court in California ruled in favor of citizens’ right to place a referendum on the ballot opposing a war, ruling that “one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power.”

This approach has contributed to ending U.S. slavery, South African Apartheid, and a nuclear arms race.

Do not tell those of us who elected you that we did not elect you to do this. We most certainly did. We elected you to lead on issues where the federal government is opposing the passionate will of most of the country, not to shamefully go silent as dozens of other localities act first. We have all been raised to believe that genocide is the worst thing there is, and that silence is betrayal. Tonight we plead with you to stop betraying us, the rule of law, and the people of Palestine.

I’d like to ask those who want a resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza to please stand.

We’re not asking for commentary on past events. There is an urgent need for every voice to prevent an invasion of southern Gaza. The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to cease killing and causing injury to Palestinians. The court is proceeding to try Israel for the crime of genocide.

We could ask you to support an arms embargo, as required by law. We’re merely asking you to support a ceasefire, something everyone from President Biden down already claims they support as well. This is not a difficult question. Do the right thing.


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