Camden Mayor refuses public entry to council meeting after Gaza demonstration

The Mayor of Camden closed the public gallery at this week’s council meeting as a Gaza demonstration gathered outside the Town Hall. 

Mayor Nazma Rahman made the decision to exclude the public from Camden Council’s important annual budget meeting believing it would be targeted by protestors.

In January, Rahman was forced to temporarily adjourn a full council meeting after Gaza protestors repeatedly interrupted and threw a child’s shoe into the chamber.

On Monday, Camden Council’s borough solicitor, Andrew Maughan, said: “This is an extremely rare and unusual thing for a mayor to do but nevertheless is something which is in the mayor’s common law powers.”

Explaining Rahman’s decision to the chamber, Maughan cited the previous disruption tactics and said Camden had ‘intelligence’ that Monday’s council tax setting meeting would be targeted.

Maughan also argued the importance of the meeting’s business as well as suggesting that Camden Council had little influence over events in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, protesters lined Judd Street and Euston Road with huge hand painted banners and Palestinian flags as they called on the council to support a motion for a ceasefire in Gaza.

As a result of the exclusion, they saw their formal request to address councillors on the issue denied in their attempt to pressure the council.

Members of that formal deputation would have included two Labour Islington councillors, whose council did support a motion for a ceasefire.

Lale, a member of Camden Friends of Palestine, the group that organised the protest, expressed her frustration at Camden’s decisions but said she hadn’t ‘seen political engagement like this in a long time’. 

She said: “I don’t know why they’re being so extreme about this.

“It’s making people questions their integrity on other issues as well, not just the issue of Palestine.”

Lale also refuted claims that Camden Council had little influence over the Gaza war, insisting it was a ‘local issue’.

She added: “If we live in a country that will ignore the deaths of 12,000 children, then how are they going to care about our children?”

Council leader Georgia Gould, said to the chamber on Monday that the council’s focus was on helping those in Camden affected by the conflict.

On the conflict, she said: “We need to see the fighting end immediately, a sustainable ceasefire observed by all sides with civilians protected, a return of the hostages and a lasting peace agreement with the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“I want to say very clearly here today that no-one in this room is responsible for the actions of Hamas or for the Israeli Government.”

She also added that protestors had appeared at her surgery the previous week and ‘scared’ protestors.

Councillor Lorna Russell, Camden’s only Green councillor, proposed a motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza earlier in the year but could not find another councillor to support her proposal.

Images courtesy of Camden Friends of Palestine. Used with permission. 

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