Protesters Call for Mayor Kirk Watson to Support Cease-fire in Gaza

Protesters gather outside of City Hall Nov. 2 (Photo by Lina Fisher)

Mid-morning Thursday, as Gov. Greg Abbott announced his arrival in Israel to show “support … in their fight against brutal terrorist organizations like Hamas,” around 50 people stood in front of Austin’s City Hall, chanting, “cease-fire now” and “stop killing kids.”

A coalition including several religious groups, UT student groups, the Palestinian Assembly for Liberation, and Jewish Voices for Peace, says they are asking the mayor to publicly support a cease-fire and issue a statement of support for the Palestinian people as he did for the Israeli people on Oct. 8, the day after Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and massacred more than a thousand and captured another 200-plus civilians.

“My heart breaks for the people of Israel,” read Watson’s Oct. 8 statement. “I stand with them, and I condemn the terrorist acts. Let us reinforce our commitment to joining together, embracing each other and continuing to work for the safety of our Jewish neighbors, family and friends against the growing anti-Semitism we see.” On Oct. 9, Watson joined Abbott and Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, at the “We Stand With Israel” event in Austin.

Since the Oct. 7 attacks, Israeli military actions in Gaza have resulted in widespread Palestinian casualties, with a recent AP report estimating more than 9,000 civilian deaths. Locally, hundreds of protesters have gathered the past two weekends at the Texas State Capitol to condemn violence in the Gaza Strip. “[Watson] has chosen to enter this conversation, even though he’s a City Council member, by declaring his support for Israel,” says Zainab Haider, who organized the protest. “In the days and weeks since, he has not made any comment or condemnation of what’s happening in Palestine, the bombing of the Gaza Strip, where more than 3,300 children have been killed.”

Several Jewish people were also at City Hall in solidarity. “What we’re asking him to do is just do the same for Palestinians, to show the same sympathy for Palestinians,” said protester Michael Katz.

Following the City Hall protest, during Haider’s public comment to Council, she addressed Watson: “These people are your constituents, too. Palestinian lives matter, too.”

At the time of publication, Watson had not responded to the Chronicle’s requests for comment.

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