A group of about 30-40 people staged a sit-in outside council chambers in city hall Monday (Nov. 27) to call for an end to what organizers call “the Gaza siege.”
“The main goal of the protests was to have the leadership hear our voice and our demands, which were ignored a week before,” Surrey resident Mohamed Dawood said.
He said when residents tried to bring their concerns to mayor and council during last week’s council meeting, their concerns were not heard. Only people speaking to items on the public hearing agenda were allowed in chambers, after council returned from a brief recess that was called due to shouting protesters.
“So our community was really frustrated that our representatives are not meeting their expectations, and they’re not representing their issues,” Dawood said.
This is why they returned to city hall on Monday night to continue calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, Dawood said.
At the sit-in, Dawood said city bylaw officers asked those gathered to leave city hall, but the group said they would not move until their demands were heard.
As there was no council meeting Monday night, the mayor was not available, he added, a representative from her office listened to the group’s demands and Dawood handed the representative a letter with a list of their demands.
Among them, Dawood is asking Canada to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for Palestine to be free.
“We need the mayor and councillors to take leadership and join the many governments around the world who have called for a ceasefire in this humanitarian disaster,” he said.
By Tuesday (Nov. 28), more than 80 politicians representing local governments across B.C. have signed an open letter to the Canadian government calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Coun. Pardeep Kooner is currently the only Surrey councillor to sign the letter.
“I signed it because I don’t think it’s right to kill children,” Kooner said. “I just don’t think it’s appropriate to go after children when they’ve done nothing wrong.
“I think Surrey stands with all of its residents, and it doesn’t matter what religion or background they have, and if something’s not right, I think we all should stick together on that.”
Dawood said they plan to return next week until the group’s demands are heard.
Surrey mayor Brenda Locke did not respond to comment, but the City of Surrey communication department said in an email response,
“Council responded to those who protested during the last public council meeting, including comments from Councillors following the Mayor’s comments in which a ceasefire was called for by several.”
Meanwhile, Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their ceasefire for two more days past Monday (Nov. 27), the Qatari government said, bringing the prospect of a longer halt to their deadliest war and further exchanges of Hamas-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
The announcement, made by Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majid Al Ansary in a post on X, came on the final day of the original four-day truce between the warring sides.
– With files from Tom Zytaruk & Associated Press