Pro-Palestinian protests saw a Greenwich Council meeting evacuated after they began shouting from the public gallery. A Greenwich full council meeting on January 31 was adjourned after protestors interrupted the proceedings by asking for a one-minute silence for those who have died in the Israel-Gaza war.
The disruption began during the public questions section of the meeting, when resident Susan Phasey asked a written question on what the council was doing to counteract the rise in Islamophobia seen since the October 7 attacks in Israel. The resident then asked a supplementary question at the meeting and asked those in attendance to observe a one-minute silence for the Palestinian victims of the war.
Ms Phasey said at the meeting: “In respect to the Palestinian victims, also of hate crimes, culminating in the ongoing genocide against Gaza for which we shall continue to request an immediate and permanent ceasefire and a release of the illegally held Palestinian prisoners and an end to the occupation, we kindly ask for all here to stand with us for a minute’s silence now.”
The silence was quickly interrupted by Mayor of Greenwich Dominic Mbang, who claimed the request was not related to the initial question asked. Members of the public then began shouting phrases from the gallery such as, ‘We stand with Palestine,’ and, ‘It’s not about anti-Semitism. This is about anti-apartheid.’
A member of the public shouted: “Shame on you. I am ashamed to be a member of the Labour Party. I never thought I would say that, but one thing I am going to say to all of you sitting down there; history is watching, and one day you will have to account for what you are doing now.”
Following rounds of applause, the mayor gave a final warning to the members of the public for them to stop the disruption. The meeting was then adjourned after protestors refused to stop shouting from the gallery.
The meeting shortly resumed after the protestors were escorted out of the chamber. The mayor said the remaining time allocated for questions would be skipped by agreement of all parties due to the disruption.
Another Greenwich Council meeting was evacuated on December 6 after attendees started chanting, ‘Ceasefire now,’ from the public gallery. In the week afterwards, over half of the Greenwich Labour Group made a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank and for all hostages to be released. The group included 32 councillors and was the first time a group of Labour councillors had broken away from the party’s stance as leader of the council.
A councillor included in the list, who wished to remain anonymous, previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “Councillors have been concerned for some time about not having spoken out. We have been talking amongst ourselves about putting together a statement and this has now come to pass.”
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer previously claimed he felt a ceasefire would encourage further attacks from Hamas against Israel. However, he said in a statement on December 22 that he welcomed the United Nations Security Council’s approval for a resolution to be sought in the conflict, and called the horrors of the war ‘intolerable’.
Greenwich Council leader Anthony Okereke said in a statement on October 20 that the authority’s condolences go to all people affected by the conflict in Israel and Gaza. He added that the complex and long-standing issue had resulted in the ‘unnecessary loss’ of thousands of lives.
Regarding the protest on December 6, a Greenwich Council spokesperson told the LDRS: “We understand there is strong feeling on both sides of the conflict and that people have a right to express those views. The council has a long-standing relationship with faith leaders in our community and they recently came together in an act of solidarity and to call for a speedy and peaceful resolution to this conflict.”