Dozens of elected officials and faith leaders from across Prince George’s County took a “unified, public stance supporting a ceasefire in Palestine” at a Thursday news conference in District Heights.

Twenty-eight elected officials sent a letter in support of a ceasefire to County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, District 5 council member Jolene Ivey, District 9 council member Sydney Harrison and the Prince George’s County Council before the news conference. Letter signees include College Park Mayor Fazlul Kabir, Maryland State Sen. Joanne Benson, state delegates and school board members.

The letter declared that the elected officials are taking a public stance in support of a ceasefire. It stated that in recent months, they have “seen abhorrent and tragic use of our tax dollars supporting mass displacement, bombardment, imprisonment, starvation and murder of Palestinian people.”

“What is happening right now in Palestine, in Gaza, is a collective punishment,” Kabir said. “It’s not acceptable.”

The call comes six months after a surge of violence in Israel and Palestine. Hamas killed 1,200 people in Israel in an attack Oct. 7. The next day, Israel declared war on Hamas. More than 32,000 people in Palestine have been killed since October, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Elected officials and faith leaders stood side-by-side at Hemingway Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church holding signs with messages such as “ceasefire now.” Attendees were encouraged to write letters urging the county council to call for a ceasefire through a website where more than 250 letters have already been sent.

[Prince George’s County Council committee discusses bill to promote safety at gun stores, ranges]

Although the letter was addressed to the Prince George’s County Council and county executive, both District 6 council member Wala Blegay and District 7 council member Krystal Oriadha voiced support for a ceasefire at the news conference.

The decision to call for a ceasefire is not political but has “everything to do with the humanity of our country,” Oriadha said.

Blegay said she has called on the county executive and the elected officials on the county council to support her and Oriadha in putting forth a ceasefire resolution. The resolution would need six votes, she said.

“Don’t let [the Prince George’s County Council] tell you that the budget is going to be this issue. It’s not an issue,” Blegay said. “This is not an Israel versus Palestinian issue. This is a humanitarian issue.”

Blegay told The Diamondback that although it is difficult to know the direct connection between money from Prince George’s County to Israel and Palestine, she does not want her federal money contributing to violence in Palestine.

The call for a ceasefire would be a message to the federal delegation to ensure that “our money is not going to anything related to this conflict,” she added.

Other county executives in Maryland, such as Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, have publicly called for a ceasefire. State leaders, including Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Gov. Wes Moore, have also called for a ceasefire.

[UMD students call for end to violence in southern Gaza at demonstration]

In January, the Maryland General Assembly introduced a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire “in Israel and occupied Palestine,” the return of all Israeli hostages and the delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Five of the eight delegates who sponsored this resolution represent Prince George’s County.

It is important for officials to send a clear message to those across the state and the nation what they are not willing to tolerate, Del. Gabriel Acevero, who co-sponsored the resolution, said.

Several faith leaders from various Muslim and Christian groups also spoke at the news conference in support of a public ceasefire.

Maher Kharma, a native Palestinian, spoke to the crowd about how people in Gaza have been suffering from a lack of basic needs, such as food, education and transportation. While Muslim people are fasting during the month of Ramadan, people in Palestine have been fasting for more than five months, he said.

“Everyone is suffering,” Kharma said. “If we allow this brutality, this genocide to go on, just watch what’s going to happen in like 20 or 30 years.”

Tony Lee, the founder and senior pastor of Community of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church, agreed with the sentiment that the call for a ceasefire is not a political statement but “a moral affirmation.” He said he does not want to see his tax money or resources be “complicit to genocide.”

“When we come together as a great choir of humanity, then we can make a difference,” Lee said. “What we’re asking for today is for our state legislature, our county council members and our public officials to join the choir for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid.”