Featured photo: Protesters march outside Winston-Salem’s city hall. (Photo by Gale Melcher)

On Monday evening, dozens of local activists gathered in Winston-Salem’s city hall once again to protest the war being waged on Gaza.

For the last several months, local activists in the Triad have been pushing for city leaders to create a resolution calling for a ceasefire. In Winston-Salem, protesters have been filling city hall since January to urge city leaders to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and end US military aid to Israel. 

On Monday, Black Lives Matter activist and national cochair of Green Party US Tony Ndege told TCB that while their demands have not changed, the situation is “much more dire” now. 


Earlier this month, Israeli forces bombed Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, killing and displacing many Palestinians who couldn’t go further south as Egypt’s border is largely closed. Ndege likened this displacement to that of many Winston-Salem residents who have been forced out of their homes over the course of the city’s history. 

In order to make way for Highway 52, eminent domain was used to push aside the homes of thousands of people, most of them Black.

One of the main reasons the protesters attended was to call attention to the crisis by speaking directly to Mayor Allen Joines and councilmembers through the city’s monthly public comment period. 

According to state law, municipalities must provide at least one chance for people to address city leaders per month, and Winston-Salem designates 30 minutes at the end of its city council meeting on the third Monday of each month. Each speaker is limited to three minutes. According to city code, “If there are more than 10 speakers, council, by majority consent, may extend the public comment period by a reasonable time period.” 

About 15 protesters had signed up to speak, Ndege said, and they were called at the end.

Protesters chant as city leaders retreat into a closed session. (photo by Gale Melcher)

The first protester spoke for a full three minutes, and then Joines called a second protester, Marcus Miller, adding that they would be the “last speaker.” From the audience, Ndege asked Joines to extend the comment period, but Joines quickly denied his request. In February 2023, city leaders let the public comment period last well over 30 minutes and allowed 13 people to speak.

Miller opted to share their time with a child named Hanan, saying, “You need to hear her words more than mine.”

Hanan said that she has seen kids her age and younger “crying from pain.”

“What hurts me more, that nobody’s helping,” she said. After a pause, she murmured, “Free Palestine,” and went back to her seat.

Using the remainder of the time, Miller said, “Every day I think about Palestine. I think constantly of Palestine. Why don’t you?” 

To the chagrin of the protesters, Joines closed the public comment period. Dozens of protesters stood up and shouted “Ceasefire now! Ceasefire now! If we don’t get it? Shut it down!” for around four minutes as city leaders retreated into their closed session.

Protesters chant as city leaders retreat into a closed session. (photo by Gale Melcher)

While their demands haven’t been met or acknowledged, Ndege told TCB that they’ll continue showing up for “as long as it takes” and that they’re going to “ramp up” their attempts to contact city leaders. 

“This is bigger than just the city council: It’s really important to do this to educate our population in Winston-Salem about what’s going on, but also educate our leaders,” he said.

Ndege added that this movement is to help show “where people will stand when the chips are down.”

With the election coming up, Ndege said that while many candidates are focused on important issues like housing, they need to “step up and speak out more about how they would stand on issues of life or death like this.”

As TCB has reported, Joines is seeking re-election for mayor, a seat he has held since 2001. This year, his opponents include Frankie Gist and JoAnne Allen. Six out of eight councilmembers are running for re-election this year, and at least two newcomers will be seated in the council chambers next year. To read about all of the candidates running for election this year, from president to city council, read our 2024 Primary Election guide.

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