Sterling Heights City Council passes resolution supporting world peace

Public speakers call for cease-fire in Gaza

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 15, 2024


STERLING HEIGHTS — Repeated public comments at Sterling Heights City Council meetings over violence in the Middle East recently prompted the council to pass a resolution that promotes peace and laments violence throughout the world.

During an April 2 meeting, the Sterling Heights City Council unanimously passed a resolution in its consent agenda that affirms “their commitment to an end to violent conflicts worldwide, the humane treatment of all people affected by those conflicts, and peaceful resolution of disputes.”

The resolution affirms the city’s stated commitment to welcoming residents of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, national heritages and religions. It also says the city aims to encourage “peace, mutual respect, and acceptance of all persons” and condemns “violence, bigotry, hate speech, discrimination, and racism, in any form, in any place, and against anyone.”

The Sterling Heights City Council “further recognizes that violent conflicts and the resulting loss of life, destruction of homes and property, and humanitarian crisis impacts our residents, whose loved ones are impacted,” the resolution states.

It also says that “acts of hate, intolerance, and violence go against the core values of humanity and the fabric of the Sterling Heights community.”

The resolution also supports people’s rights to “engage in civil dialog and advocacy, without threat or intimidation” and calls for “collective resilience against divisiveness, hatred, and misunderstanding.”

A copy of the resolution will go to Michigan’s U.S. senators and U.S. Rep. John James, officials said.

The resolution comes after public speakers and activists — who mainly supported Palestinians or denounced Israel — spoke at multiple City Council meetings and implored the council for a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

During the March 5 City Council meeting, one speaker, who didn’t identify herself, said, “God is in solidarity with the marginalized and the oppressed.”

“God takes sides. God is not neutral, and God’s solidarity should become our solidarity. If God takes sides, so should we,” she said, later continuing:

“It is not enough to just pray for peace. We must work for it. This means advocating for policies and resolutions that promote peace and justice, both locally and globally. Therefore, I urge the council to support a bilateral cease-fire resolution for the ongoing genocide in Gaza.”

Another cease-fire advocate who didn’t identify herself urged the council to be proactive toward Gaza.

“The ongoing genocide has led to profound humanitarian suffering and loss,” she said. “Tens of thousands of innocent women, children and men have been killed unnecessarily.”

When it was Mayor Michael Taylor’s turn to address the topic, he called it a “very complicated” one over which people often disagree.

“You can think that a genocide is happening, and somebody else can think it’s a justified attempt to defend themselves,” he said.

Taylor criticized some of the public speakers’ tone and bristled at statements alluding to God being on their side, adding that there are Jews in Israel who believe the land was given to them because they believe “God is on their side,” while there are Muslims in Palestine who believe “the absolute opposite way — that Allah is on their side.”

“When you have God on your side — when you believe that you’re not just a human being with human emotions and human frailties and human errors, that you are actually carrying the word of God, the most powerful, most divine — then you are capable of doing absolutely anything you want. You no longer have to consider what the other person is thinking,” Taylor said, later concluding:

“At a minimum, you don’t know what God wants you to do. You don’t, and when you use God as a justification to come and take any position …  you can do some really terrible things with that mentality.”

Taylor said he could personally support a general resolution against “needless killing.” But he said he didn’t support a cease-fire resolution without knowing what happens afterward, such as the status of hostages seized by Gaza’s Hamas organization, which the U.S. government classifies as a foreign terrorist organization.

Taylor referenced what transpired Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas-led operations invaded Israel, killed an estimated 1,200 people and took an estimated 250 hostages.

“Let’s say a cease-fire happens. What happens on Day 2?” Taylor asked.

“Are the hostages returned? You know, are they? Why aren’t they returned right now? … What is stopping Hamas from saying, ‘Stop killing us, we caused this problem, we’re sorry, we made a mistake, here’s your hostages back. What are your terms of peace?’”

At the March 5 meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski mentioned that the city tried to arrange a chance for residents to speak to members of Congress about the issue, but the plans fell through. She asked city officials to review other communities’ resolutions on “peace and an end to violence in the Middle East,” particularly Warren’s, and then put together a resolution for the council to consider.

During the April 2 meeting, multiple speakers during public comment expressed their dissatisfaction with the city’s resolution, with some calling it vague for not specifically mentioning Gaza or for not calling for a cease-fire in that war.

Meanwhile, resident Paul Smith took a different perspective and sardonically commented on the resolution before its passage.

“The city has very belatedly put an end to violence in the world,” he said. “And, you know, we’ve been a city for 55 years, and 4 1/2 million people have been killed in wars and violence, and the City Council could have ended world violence long ago, and it’s about time.”

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