A full Lewisham Council meeting was abandoned last night after demonstrators calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza refused to stop the protest. The meeting later continued in private.
The disruption began when the fourth item of the agenda was announced and protestors stood up in unison, continuously chanting “ceasefire” and “shame on you” from the public gallery. They demanded that the meeting discuss a call for a ceasefire in Gaza, but officials and councillors refused to comply.
Directing frustration at Lewisham councillors and the Mayor Damian Egan, protestors said: “This is the voice of the community, and we say enough is enough” while others added: “Your silence is complicit in the mass murder of children.”
In response to the chanting, councillors left the chamber, resulting in the meeting being suspended and security ordering the public to vacate the building. Councillors then resumed the meeting in private without public or media present, the council confirmed today.
A council spokeswoman said: ”The meeting was not cancelled, it was suspended while being moved to a secure location, as legislation permits, it continued.”
Prior to the meeting, dozens of protestors had gathered outside Lewisham Town Hall.
Amina Mangera, one protestor, told Eastlondonlines: “The directly elected Mayor of Lewisham Damian Egan soon to stand as prospective Labour MP for Bristol North and a big supporter of the racist Apartheid State of Israel as well as the majority of the councillors do not support an immediate ceasefire. Tonight, we protested outside the council and disrupted the full council meeting. The Mayor and councillors walked out.”
Khalid Rahman, another protestor, told ELL: “There’s a bit of resentment amongst the community. It’s not like [the councillors] didn’t know; they saw people outside protesting. Regardless of the political, corrupt leaders, it doesn’t matter what they don’t say because our voices are what matters. You know, they only get elected through us.”
Another protester, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ELL: “At the end of the day, it’s about humanity. We can clearly see what is right and what is wrong. Whatever religion they belong to, there is a code of conduct. We should be praying for the hostages and their families and for the innocent people in Gaza.”
The eruption at Wednesday’s council meeting follows all three local Labour MPs – Vicky Foxcroft, Janet Daby and Ellie Reeves – following the Labour whip and abstaining from voting for a ceasefire in the vote on November 16.
A council spokeswoman later clarified to ELL that the councillors had no ability to change the agenda due to procedural constraints. As a result, councillors could not accommodate the protest, which suspended the meeting. For that reason, they left the chamber and held the meeting in private.