Pulaski County officials reject resolution to support ceasefire in the Middle East

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The Pulaski County Quorum Court on Tuesday rejected a resolution to “support permanent ceasefire and prevent further loss of human life in the Middle East.”

The Justices of the Peace also voted to table the matter indefinitely upon a motion from Justice Phil Stowers.

The resolution stated a desire to save lives regardless of faith or ethnicity, urged national leaders to end the crisis and noted that “harassment, discrimination and violence towards the Muslim and Jewish communities are contradictory to the values that define Pulaski County.”

Several legislative bodies across the country have considered resolutions that call for a ceasefire in the Middle East. Activists brought such a proposal to a Little Rock Board of Directors meeting in April, though officials haven’t acted on it. The Fayetteville city council shut down its own ceasefire resolution in May.

Stowers’ motion to table the matter indefinitely prohibited justices from voting on the resolution directly. When given the opportunity to discuss the motion of tabling, only Justice Lillie McMullen spoke, and she questioned why Stowers or others would want to do so. 

“Why on earth would we want to table it?” McMullen asked. “Why would we not go forward with it at this point? What is it that we are afraid of or want to avoid?”

Stowers quickly called for immediate consideration, which passed unanimously. Four justices then voted against tabling the resolution indefinitely: McMullen, Diane Curry, Curtis Keith and resolution sponsor Donna Massey.

“Honestly speaking, [the resolution] is not picking sides,” Massey told the Arkansas Advocate ahead of the vote last week. “Of course we could, but it’s just asking for a ceasefire to save lives on all sides. Me, personally, I don’t see how that could be that political. It’s just asking them to stop for the sake of humanity.”

Stowers was escorted out of the meeting room quickly upon adjournment. During a phone interview afterward, Stowers said he was proud of his motion and his colleagues who voted with him.

Stowers also said he believes Hamas was the aggressor and Israel has the right to protect itself. He said he “believes in peace.”

“The people who elected us to serve Pulaski County elected us to take care of their business as it relates to Pulaski County,” Stowers said. “I feel that we have congressional representation on the national level that I certainly personally believe in and rely on.”

Three community members spoke in favor of the ceasefire during the quorum court meeting, and staff read one written comment in opposition to the resolution. 

Supporters shared statistics of the ongoing violence and referenced residents in Pulaski County who have family that are directly affected. The resident in opposition wrote that the resolution was not appropriate for county-level involvement and the language was not equitable.

After the vote, about two dozen supporters in attendance stood and chanted “Shame” and “Justices, where is the peace?” toward the quorum court. Massey extended her apologies to the supporters as she left.

Among those community members was Anika Whitfield, who told the Arkansas Advocate that she has people in her life who have been directly affected by the violence in the Middle East. Whitfield said the quorum court tabling the resolution indefinitely was an “obvious work of not allowing direct democracy to happen.”

Whitfield said it seemed like the justices’ decision was already finalized before the meeting started.

When Massey talked with the Advocate last week, her confidence that the resolution would pass was wavering based on secondhand communications about what her colleagues might do. Following Tuesday’s vote, Massey noted that there was “no validity” to her colleagues’ reasons to vote against the resolution.

“They don’t feel that we should get involved in international affairs, but we are involved,” Massey said during a previous interview. “We are involved whether we like it or not. Some just don’t want to get into anything too political during election season. I’m just keeping it real.”

The Pulaski County Quorum Court is made up of 15 Justices of the Peace, each of whom represents a designated district for two-year terms. Two are up for election this November, Kathy Lewison of District 3 and Julie Blackwood of District 4. Three seats were determined during the primary election, and those justices will take office in January.

In total, the legislative body serves approximately 380,000 residents. Massey was first elected in 1999. She currently represents District 6, which covers downtown Little Rock and a western portion of the city.figure,.tipContainer,.socContainer,.subscribeShortcodeContainer,.donateContainer{display:none !important;}.youtubeContainer{position: relative;padding-bottom: 56.25%;padding-top: 30px;height: 0;overflow: hidden;margin-bottom:12px;}.youtubeContainer iframe,.video-container object,.video-container embed{position: absolute;top: 0;left: 0;width: 100% !important;height: 100%;margin: 12px 0px !important;}.newsroomSidebar{width:35%;max-width:35%;padding:10px;border-top:solid 2px black;background-color:#d3d3d3;float:right;margin-left:50px;}.snrsInfoboxSubContainer{padding:10px;border-top:solid 2px black;background-color:#d3d3d3;}.halfwidth{float:right;width:50%;max-width:50%;}.indent2Container{margin-left: 1em;margin-bottom:1em;border-left: solid 1px black;padding-left: 2em;}@media only screen and (max-width: 600px){.newsroomSidebar{max-width:95%;width:95%;margin-left:4%}.halfwidth{float:none;width:100%;max-width:100%;}}

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