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Council of Bloomington overrides mayor’s veto of resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza



Bloomington, Indiana – During their normal meeting on Wednesday, the Bloomington City Council overrode Mayor Kerry Thomson’s veto of a motion that called for increased help and a truce in the Israel-Hamas War. The veto was overridden by a unanimous vote of the council members.

When the resolution reached Thomson’s desk, she did not sign it within ten days, so according to Indiana law, it was a pocket veto. During the council meeting on March 27, Thomson informed the members that she would not be signing any motions that dealt with matters unrelated to city business. A resolution against the LEAP water pipeline was also pocket vetoed by Thomson, but on April 17 the council decided to override it.

The resolution instructs City Clerk Nicole Bolden to forward a copy of the bill to President Joe Biden and the Indiana congressional delegation. In order to enable greater humanitarian relief in the conflict, it requests that national leaders work on a bilateral ceasefire. It opposes “all violence that leads to the loss of innocent civilian lives and ongoing human suffering in both Palestine and Israel” and denounces the Oct. 7 attack on Israeli citizens by Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 Israelis. Over 34,000 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli government’s bombing and military invasion in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 onslaught, with women and children accounting for the majority of the casualties.

The resolution further demands that any hostages held by Hamas be released right away. On October 7, Hamas captured about 250 prisoners; 110 have since been freed. According to the Israeli military, Hamas is said to be holding about 100 captives in addition to the bodies of about 30 more.

The council’s decision was made two days after eight of its members demanded in an open letter to IU President Pamela Whitten and Provost Rahul Shrivastav that the university drop the criminal charges and campus bans against pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had been detained during a week-long protest and encampment in Dunn Meadow. All council members signed the letter, with the exception of Isak Asare.

57 peaceful protestors were forcibly taken into custody by the Indiana University Police Department and the Indiana State Police on April 27 and 29, during an eight-day protest and encampment in Dunn Meadow. Numerous individuals detained faced charges of trespassing on campus, which resulted in a minimum one-year ban from the college.

Around 60 people filled council chambers Wednesday night for the meeting, and many spectators held signs reading “Let Gaza Live,” “Override Mayor’s Veto” and “Thank You City Council.”

On April 9, protestors lined the pavement outside the venue with posters pleading with Thomson to sign the resolution before his first State of the City speech. The protesters were upset and disappointed by Thomson’s veto threat.

Some community members commended the council during Wednesday night’s public comment period for criticizing the IU administration’s actions and use of force in response to the encampment. A public commenter, however, addressed Councilmember Asare directly and urged him to “break his silence” over the campsite and the demands of the IU Divestment Coalition. Whitten, Shrivastav, and Carrie Docherty, vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, are all being called to resign by the coalition. Along with these demands, IU must open Muslim and Middle Eastern cultural centers, support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and cease its cooperation with the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Crane Division.

The letter notes that on April 25, the day before the camping started, IU modified its policy, thereby outlawing the use of temporary buildings in Dunn Meadow without prior authorization. The council ordered that IU immediately revoke the policy change, claiming it violated the First Amendment rights of Bloomington citizens.

Asare told the Indiana Daily Student that while he concurs with the letter’s contents, he chose not to sign it because he works for IU and believes he shouldn’t use his council membership to pressure the university, particularly because he has already taken part in faculty votes on the topics. Asare co-directs the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies’ program on cybersecurity and global politics in addition to serving as assistant dean for undergraduate affairs.

Asare recently voted to have IU’s new policy on temporary structures and any campus bans affecting arrested teachers, staff, students, and community people repealed in his capacity as an IU faculty member. He added that he voted against a resolution requesting that Whitten and Shrivastav’s employment be terminated by the IU Board of Trustees due to their handling of the Dunn Meadow incidents and the faculty’s vote of no confidence as part of his faculty vote.

Asare added that the letter was written by the council in a hurry, leaving him with no opportunity to edit it before being asked to sign it.

“You need to have a space for thinking about how we move forward from this and what constructive outcomes can come out of a terrible, ugly situation,” Asare said. “Many mistakes were made. I think very poor judgement was executed and lots of, just, immoral, wrong, bad decisions were made. But I’d like to be a part of helping to solve that not just being angry about it.”

The council further stated in the letter that the reaction from the Indiana State Police went “far beyond what was required” in order to implement the new policy.

“The large number of police officers, the weapons displayed and used by the officers, and their forceful actions to arrest protesters only served to escalate the situation,” the letter read. “Their violent response to peaceful protest is unacceptable.”

On April 27, Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomson also posted a video statement on Facebook. Thomson stated that while she opposed violence and unapproved encampments, she supported the protestors’ right to free speech. What violence she was referring to remained unclear.

The IDS is unable to verify any incidents of violence started by campsite protestors.

She asserted in her remark that the Dunn Meadow encampment, which is a component of a nationwide movement on college campuses, drew participants with a “outside agenda” who were not local residents, although she did not offer any concrete proof in this video.

The majority of the demonstrators who were arrested were, according to the Indiana Daily Student, either Bloomington residents or members of the faculty.

Thomson issued a second statement the next day that clarified some of her comments.

“We had reports of Proud Boys and other involvement, and I had concern about the possibility of escalation beyond what our students and faculty present on campus were gathered to achieve,” Thomson said. “This statement, I see now, pointed the finger in the way I had not intended. I am sorry.”

She added that she had met with the students who planned the protest and that the Bloomington Police Department would not be participating in any response to the campsite.

“I hope that in the future, there will be greater communication and collaboration with our team when Indiana University undertakes actions that affect all of Bloomington, not just campus,” Thomson said. “As I said yesterday, I stand with the protesters’ right to free speech, their right to assemble, and I ask that any future police involvement happens only when all de-escalation paths have been exhausted.”











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