LEWISTON — The City Council passed a resolution this week calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel, becoming the third municipality in Maine to do so.

Lewiston resident Ifraax Saciid, who witnessed civil war in Somalia at age 7, was among several people urging the Lewiston City Council to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Councilors, voting 5-2 to approve the resolution, said they struggled for weeks over whether to take up the issue, but were swayed by constituents who feel they have no other options to voice their opposition to the intense violence.

Councilor David Chittim said placing the resolution on Tuesday’s agenda was “solely a response to the voices of our constituents.”

“I don’t believe the council should weigh in on matters of international politics, however, I do believe the council should be responsive to its constituents,” he said, adding that the “outpouring of support” for the resolution outweighs concerns that the issue shouldn’t be taken up locally.

The resolution asks Maine’s congressional delegation and President Biden to demand an end to violence in Gaza and Israel, and “an immediate and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners unjustly held, the unrestricted entry of humanitarian aid, the restoration of electricity, water, food, and medical supplies to Gaza, and respect for international law by all parties.”

Many residents held “ceasefire” signs in the council chamber, and roughly a dozen people spoke during public comment. It was the third meeting in a row where the council was asked to support a resolution. The cities of Portland and Belfast have also approved similar resolutions in Maine, and according to supporters roughly 100 municipal bodies nationwide have done so.


Supporters of local resolutions have said they have exhausted other avenues, and attempts to contact the congressional delegation “have fallen on deaf ears.”

“We feel unheard, and are turning to our local government for support,” one supporter said March 19.

Lewiston resident Ifraax Saciid told the council she supports a ceasefire resolution because she witnessed war in her native Somalia when she was 7 years old.

“In those dark moments, I longed for peace, hoping for someone to step up and put an end to the suffering,” she said. “We desperately pleaded for mercy and humanity, but our cries were met with silence or excuses justifying the violence.”

Former councilor Jim Lysen said he believes it’s appropriate for local governments to discuss the issue because “it involves our tax money” and can put pressure on members of Congress.

“This is an issue that a lot of constituents believe in because we’re seeing it every day,” he said. “It’s not a solution, but it helps.”


Aleks Diamond-Stanic said there appears to be a “disconnect between public opinion and public policy,” which was commented on by several councilors. But he said the “hope is that the public opinion side can be amplified by this body.”

Councilor Josh Nagine, who voted against the resolution, said he supports an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but that “if a binding (United Nations) resolution of 14 members of the security council can’t stop this, you’re certainly not going to get it stopped by a city council.”

Nagine, however, pushed for the council to allow constituents to speak without a shortened time limit.

“Maybe this isn’t council business but making sure your voices are heard is certainly important,” he said.

Prior to the vote, Councilor Eryn Soule-Leclair said she also supports a ceasefire personally, but called it “inappropriate for the council to take this up.” Soule-Leclair ended up voting in favor, stating, “For hope, yes.”

Mayor Carl Sheline said that like the councilors, he’s struggled for weeks with the idea of the council taking up a ceasefire resolution.

“Objectively speaking, this does not meet the test of city business,” he said, but added that recent conversations with constituents and friends made him think about it differently. “We’re here tonight protecting the people’s wishes and I urge the council to vote for this.”

The final vote was 5-2, with councilors Tim Gallant and Nagine opposed.

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