© 2024 KVPR | Valley Public Radio - White Ash Broadcasting, Inc. :: 89.3 Fresno / 89.1 Bakersfield
89.3 Fresno | 89.1 Bakersfield
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kerman becomes second Valley city to call for Gaza ceasefire. Mayor says matter goes beyond politics

Kerman Mayor Maria Pacheco says the Gaza ceasefire resolution is not about "abstract political issues."
Esther Quintanilla
Kerman Mayor Maria Pacheco says the Gaza ceasefire resolution is not about "abstract political issues."

KERMAN, Calif. – The city of Kerman narrowly passed a proclamation this week calling for a stop to the violence in the Middle East, joining 70 other U.S. cities and just one other in the central San Joaquin Valley.

But unlike the unanimous vote that took place in Madera last month, the five-member board in Kerman was split. A 90 minute discussion on the matter involved revisions to the drafted document, before the council voted 3-0 with two members abstaining.

Pro-Palestinian advocates bore the colors of the Palestinian flag as they filled the council chambers – mirroring a common sight at council chambers around the country. Several took to the podium before the council to speak on why the proclamation resonates among the community.

“We are residents of the Central Valley and our voices are important, just like the voices in New York, Seattle and Texas,” said Zeina Roussan, who lives in Fresno County. “[Calling for a ceasefire] is one way we can get our voices heard by the federal government.”

Pro-Palestinian efforts continue widely across the Valley

Pro-Palestinian protesters rallied outside Fresno City Hall to pressure local leaders to approve a ceasefire resolution amid the Israel-Hamas war.
Esther Quintanilla
Pro-Palestine protesters rally outside Fresno City Hall to pressure local leaders to approve a ceasefire resolution amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The same day the proclamation was being discussed in Kerman, tensions were high in the southern part of the Valley.

For weeks, advocates have been calling on the Bakersfield City Council to pass a ceasefire resolution, often resulting in a clearing out of the council chambers. At a council meeting Wednesday, five pro-Palestinian advocates were forcibly removed and arrested after reportedly disrupting the meeting and shattering a glass door inside the council chambers.

Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh ordered police to clear the chambers as demonstrators chanted “free Palestine.” The Bakersfield Police Department is investigating the incident, according to a press statement.

For months, activists in Fresno have rallied and protested over the conflict in Gaza. Most recently they called out U.S. Rep. Jim Costa at his downtown Fresno office for reportedly failing to make himself available to Palestinian, Arab and Muslim community members for nearly five months.

In Congress, Costa voted in favor of a bill that would have sent more than $17 billion in aid to Israel in February. He was also the only Democrat in California who voted in favor of censuring U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib – the only Palestinian American in Congress – for her criticism of Israel last November.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has officially called for a ceasefire in an open letter to Muslim, Palestinian American, and Arab Americans this month.

In Kerman, ‘We're here to be fair to everybody’

The Kerman proclamation was introduced to the council in February by Mayor Maria Pacheco – who sympathized with refugees from Gaza who have migrated to live in her city to live with relatives. She told the crowd the resolution represented “a tangible expression of our commitment to justice, peace, and human dignity.”

The proclamation, in its revised language, calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all hostages in the conflict and for aid to be sent to all impacted civilians. It also specifically calls on President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to “use their position and influence to end the violence.”

Councilmember Ismael Herrera said the war was a humanitarian issue, “whether you’re Christian, Jewish or Muslim.” But he and the other members on the council wanted to include phrasing that more explicitly condemned the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by the Hamas militant group.

“Just as I condemn the terrorist attacks by Hamas, I denounce the same way what the [Benjamin Netanyahu] Administration is doing, in my opinion, to a very vulnerable population in Gaza,” said Herrera.

Pro-Palestinian residents bore the colors of the Palestinian flag as they filled the council chambers. Many spoke about why the cause resonates with the local community
Esther Quintanilla
Pro-Palestine residents wear the colors of the Palestinian flag as they fill the council chambers in Kerman, California.

Others on the council were concerned the proclamation was not representative of all resident views.

“[We have to] be fair, consistent, predictable,” said councilmember Gary Yep. “We're here to be fair to everybody because once we approve this resolution, [it] says Kerman agrees to that.”

Councilmember Jennifer Coleman, however, was hesitant to approve the resolution because she didn’t feel the matter applied locally.

“[This is] not something I ever expected to have to deliberate on serving in local government,” she said. Coleman acknowledged, however, “We all want peace, we all don't want loss of life. We can all agree on that.”

In the end, Mayor Pacheco and councilmembers Herrera and Bill Nijjer voted in favor of the resolution. Yep and Coleman abstained from the vote.

“This proclamation is not about abstract political issues,” Pacheco said. “It's about standing in solidarity with our community here in Kerman. These are our neighbors, our friends, and our fellow citizens, and they're asking for our support during this incredibly difficult time in their lives.”

Esther Quintanilla reports on diverse communities for KVPR through the Central Valley News Collaborative, which includes The Fresno Bee, Vida en el Valle, KVPR and Radio Bilingüe.