UPDATED May 6: The Arlington Select Board -- after hearing from more than a dozen recognized speakers about the controversial ceasefire resolution due to go to Special Town Meeting on Wednesday -- went into recess and left the room at 7:40 p.m. Wednesday. This occurred after Board Chair Steve DeCourcey more than once warned disruptive audience members in the room -- to no avail -- not to shout out from the gallery. The board soon returned and, on a motion by Eric Helmuth and a second by Len Diggins, voted  5-0 for "no report."

What that means, DeCourcey said and Town Council Michael Cunningham affirmed, was that the proposed resolution -- Special Town Meeting Article 5 -- is to now become "the main motion" before Town Meeting members, who are the only people authorized to actually adopt -- or not -- any given article. DeCourcey emphasized that he had previously spoken with Cunningham to confirm that, while an advisory opinion from the board to Town Meeting is generally traditional on articles, it is not required.

Diane Mahon said she appreciated the audience but advocated for continual respect from all and to all going forward. "We do thank you for coming out," she said.

Recently endorsed by the town's Human Rights Commission, Special Town Meeting Article 5 seeks an immediate permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, release of all hostages and other related measures; the commission voted, 8-1, to support this on April 24.

The board meeting ended just after 7:50 p.m., about five minutes later than planned. It had been scheduled to go only until 7:45 p.m. because of Session 3 of Town Meeting at 8 p.m. -- and the article was not, per the board agenda, scheduled to receive a vote; that article and four others are scheduled to go Wednesday, May 8, to Special Town Meeting. 

At the meeting, those who spoke in favor of the resolution exceeded the number who spoke against, as is common practice at government meetings, each person was alloted three minutes. At least a dozen other people, some attending in person, others via Zoom, had hoped to speak as well but could not due to the time constraints, so their positions remain unknown. It was not certain whether this is what prompted the crosstalk nor what views might be held by those speaking out of turn, and neither the identity of those calling out nor what they said was intelligible to this reporter watching over Zoom.

Speaking strongly in favor of the resolution was Arfi Jayanti. "It's nothing but pro-humanity," she said, intended "to support peace in the Middle East." She was one of several speakers who mentioned severe food shortages in Gaza in the Israel-Hamas war that began Oct. 8 -- and to refer to the overall situation  as an "atrocity" and a "genocide." She also said, "We Americans are complicit -- we sponsored it," possibly referring to recently approved billions of dollars of federal funding for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine. She concluded by saying, "I support ceasefire of all wars."

In a statement Monday, resolution co-author and Town Meeting Member Sarah McKinnon expressed her thoughts. 

"This ceasefire resolution is a grassroots endeavor to engage local government by reaching out to federal leaders, who have thus far remained unmoved by individual daily calls, meetings with staff and petitions over many months regarding the conflict in Gaza and Israel, which has now developed into a grave humanitarian crisis. I interpret the Select Board's 'no report' vote as a neutral position; this is consistent with [its] recent commentary on another resolution in this year's warrant (Article 66), in which Helmuth suggested that the resolutions are properly the voice of Town Meeting. The hope is that Town Meeting members will recognize that this resolution is also locally relevant and one of many recommendations coming from the AHRC process, which involved commissioners [and] the town's DEI director as well as a broad diversity of more than 100 community members."
Organized Jewish community's perspective

In a telephone interview hours before the meeting, Rabbi Avi Bukiet, co-founder of the Center for Jewish Life, the only Jewish institution in town, told YourArlington that he has long been aware of the article, to which he has been consistently strongly opposed.

"The most important reason is that we believe that this will just bring conflict and division in the community. It has already brought conflict and division within the community, within the Town of Arlington. And there’s no actual practical measures that the town is taking to address what is going on right here in Arlington. Forget about what’s going on 10,000 miles away in a foreign conflict!"

He continued, "So we are just asking that they refocus their attention to the goings-ons in Arlington and the strife that may be happening right on their doorstep, whether it’s discrimination, whether it’s antisemitism that has rocketed in Arlington itself, or Islamophobia. Hate of all kinds. But the point is that this is what they should be focusing on -- and not at all anything that has to do with something that they have no impact on. So that is what we are asking them to do in no uncertain terms -- and we are asking them to listen to us and to not make a severe mistake in this process.”

At the meeting itself, Bukiet reiterated these points. He also described his center as having been targeted more than once by unmistakable antisemitism -- from having received a swastika in the mail when it first opened to his personally experiencing vile verbal slurs to the building having been victimized twice by arson in 2019.

How to learn more

The texts of all five Special Town Meeting articles may be read here >>

ACMi typically broadcasts public meetings in real time here >> 

These recordings usually are posted on YouTube within 48 hours.

Watch May 1 Select Board meeting:

April 25, 2024: 2024 Town Meeting Information

This account was published Monday, April 29, 2024, based on information from the town website. It was updated the afternoon of Wednesday, May 1, to include additional reporting by freelancer Jessie Castellano, a graduate student in journalism at Northeastern University, and that night, to report the board's decision as soon as it happened. It was updated around noon May 2, to correct the headline to be consistent with what the body copy already said ("no report.") It was updated at 3 p.m. Friday, May 3, to add the ACMi video of the meeting; to note the number of speakers during public comment; and to summarize the remarks of one pro-proclamation speaker whose stance was roughly representative of most of those expressing that perspective at the meeting. It was updated Monday, May 6, to include a statement from a co-author of the ceasefire resolution plus a brief recapitulation of public comment at the meeting by the leader of the only Jewish institution in Arlington. 

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