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Monday, April 15, 2024

Ocala residents speak on Gaza Strip conflict

Ocala residents voiced several different views about the conflict in the Gaza Strip during Tuesday’s meeting of the Ocala City Council, with some suggesting the city and county have no place in the fight.

During nearly an hour and a half of public comments, over two dozen individuals spoke on the escalating conflict in Gaza, which has seen tens of thousands of casualties in the past several months.

Many of those in attendance on Tuesday also attended the previous two meetings of the council, where they made the same request: For council members to issue a resolution demanding a ceasefire in the conflict.

“In the midst of conflict and chaos, it’s easy to lose sight of the humanity that binds us all together,” said Tania Bartolini, an attorney who lives in southwest Ocala. Bartolini said the conflict has produced a “resurgence” of anti-semitism towards the Jewish community. “We must acknowledge the profound impact that ongoing conflict has on communities, particularly those who have historically faced discrimination and persecution.”

Lisa Reilly, an Ocala real estate agent, criticized the council for previously voting against a cease-fire resolution.

Lisa Reilly at Ocala City Council
Lisa Reilly speaks at Tuesday’s meeting of the Ocala City Council. (Photo: City of Ocala)

“At the last meeting, you all voted. Three of you said no, no to a ceasefire. Who says no to a ceasefire? Who says no to letting children die?” said Reilly, who claimed to have left the previous meeting “mad” at those who voted against the measure. “Children are not born with prejudice and hate. Like love and humanity, it’s learned when children are cherished and nourished. Shame on whoever iti s, whoever it was, that taught you to hate.”

Monty Estes, a retired Naval officer, suggested the council was tasked with addressing matters of the city and county, not those of other nations or governing bodies.

“The citizens of this community and this county have hired you to lead this community. This community. Let me say it again. This community,” said Estes, who lives in Silver Springs.

Estes spoke of his time serving in the U.S. Navy, saying he had men die in his “own hands” and decrying the atrocities of war.

“You have senators, congressmen, and representatives for this issue. Not Marion County, and not the city of Ocala.” Estes went on to state that the fight was in “Washington, D.C.”

“It’s your leaders and your congressmen and your representatives up there that should be leading this fight. Call your congressmen, call your senators,” said Estes. “This is not a community issue.”

Randy Osborne, a political consultant and former chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, said he had spoken with families of victims from the Hamas attacks on October 7, 2023 that claimed the lives of over 1,000 individuals. In his comments, Osborne said that the city had no jurisdiction in the matter.

Randy Osborne
Randy Osborne offers his thoughts at the Ocala City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 19. (Photo: City of Ocala)

“What does this have to do with the city business in Ocala, Florida? What does this have to do with that? This is war. You have got to let Israel do their job. This has nothing to do with the city,” said Osborne.

Osborne, who is the president of the Florida Eagle Forum, said he visited Washington, D.C. last week and spoke with members from both political parties who expressed their support for Israel.

“We had members on both sides of the aisle supporting Israel. And now I’m having to sit here and have a discussion, in my hometown, about a resolution that has nothing to do with our city. Please, walk away from this. Do the right thing, and go about the city’s business. God Bless You,” said Osborne.

After public comments concluded, almost all of the 28 speakers left the room before the Ocala City Council continued discussion on its regular agenda.