Town Council Approves Ceasefire Resolution After Six-Hour Meeting

After hours of debate and the defeat of a number of contentious amendments, the Amherst town council approved a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and an immediate release of all hostages.

Town Council Approves Ceasefire Resolution After Six-Hour Meeting
Amherst4Ceasefire organized a rally in front of the middle school ahead of Monday’s vote. Photo courtesy of Aaron Williams ’26.

After more than six hours of intense debate on Monday, March 4, the town of Amherst voted to approve a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The vote passed 9-3, with one abstention.

The meeting, which was postponed and held at Amherst Regional Middle School to accommodate a larger-than-average crowd, was thrown into chaos after a council member introduced amendments to the resolution attributing blame for the broader conflict to Hamas and accusing the group of positioning Gazan civilians in harm’s way. The resolution’s three sponsors then withdrew their support, only to reaffirm it after hours of debate resulted in the council dropping the amendments.

The petition was sponsored by council members Patricia De Angelis, Ellisha Walker, and Mandi Jo Hanneke in collaboration with residents and the activist group Amherst4Ceasefire. As of the time of the meeting, it had received 760 signatures.

The proposed resolution condemned what it described as the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli state, the massive loss of civilian life, and the blocking of humanitarian aid to the region. It concluded with a demand for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all “hostages and detainees” on both sides, and the end of unconditional United States military aid to Israel.

At the meeting, a number of town residents spoke in favor of the proposal, highlighting the need to support the Amherst Palestinian community and stand against Israel’s bombardment in Gaza.

A resident from District 1 referenced names from an Oct. 26 list of the 6,000 confirmed dead Palestinians, 3,000 of them children. She found 90 named Sami and 115 named Omar, the names of her own two children.

“I’d like to remind the council that there are people in this room for whom those statistics are not numbers. They are friends, family and colleagues,” the resident continued. “For some of us, the suffering in Palestine did not begin in October, but has characterized a generational trauma that runs through our families.”

Others attendees expressed concerns with the resolution. One speaker, Henia Lewin, a Holocaust survivor, said she felt alienated by the proposal.

“I feel suddenly again like the unwanted Jew,” Lewin said. “I have wonderful friends from Egypt and Turkey who, all of a sudden, we are not good friends anymore, over stuff like this. This is divisive; let's leave the foreign policy to our president and vice president.”

The council remained divided during the vote, with amendments proposed by council members on both sides. Council member Andy Steinberg proposed two amendments condemning Hamas for igniting the conflict and claiming that the group “positioned its military assets in Gaza such that many Gaza residents are in harm's way.”

The bill’s sponsors subsequently removed their names from the resolution, with the support of Amherst4Ceasefire, claiming it no longer reflected the will of the townspeople.

Audience members expressed their frustration with the amendments.

One onlooker shouted out, “How are we supposed to explain this to our children?”

The action caused a standstill in voting as council members argued amongst each other and with the audience. Councilor Pat De Angelis expressed some of these frustrations, reflecting on a resident’s letter.

“We have just failed. We have tried to place blame,” De Angelis said. “Instead of listening to the voices and honoring the lives of Palestinian people. I am ashamed of us.”

Councilor George Ryan, who supported the amendments, harshly condemned the audience members who spoke up against the changes, arguing that they did not represent the entire town community.

“We’re being harassed and bullied. The fact that I can make my own informed judgment in good conscience is apparently beyond the comprehension of most of you,” Ryan said. “You are not the citizens of Amherst. You are just one small portion.”

Despite an intense back and forth that lasted nearly an hour, the council reconsidered the amendments, and voted 7-5 to withdraw them and return to the original wording. The three sponsors re-added their names to the document along with the signatures of the 760 residents.

At midnight, the meeting ended with the council approving the resolution as originally proposed by a vote of 8 to 3, with one abstaining, a victory for Amherst4Ceasefire.

In an interview with The Student, De Angelis expressed her horror at the events unfolding in Gaza and her belief that petitions like this one allow people across the divide to express their desire for peace.

“This is one of the most diverse groups of people,” she said of the petition’s signatories. “It crosses the spectrum in Amherst, of Muslim people, Christian people, Jewish people, Israeli Americans, Palestinian Americans, Black, white, money, no money … and [brings] [over] 700 people together to say in a voice we need to take care of each other.”