Berkeley City Commissioner fired just before divestment resolution
Former Berkeley City Commissioner Cheryl Davila lost her seat after pushing a resolution calling on the city to divest funds from companies associated with the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Davila said the night before voting on her proposal she received a call from Councilmember Darryl Moore, who appointed Davila to the city’s Human Welfare and Community Action commission in 2009, expressing his profound disappointment in her actions around the “controversial” proposal. He presented an ultimatum in which she would be removed from her position were the proposal to be voted on the following day. Moore reportedly ended the conversation with Davila saying, “you do what you do and I do what I do.”
Moore stated that Davila’s removal was due to the lack of communication around the proposal and the issue of divestment, despite the fact that the proposal was on the commission’s agenda since October 2014. He said he has not taken an official stance on divestment but would consider it more closely if the resolution passed and came before City Council.
“I don’t believe that commissioners should be removed for a controversial stance,” Praveen Sood, the city commission’s chair, said. “I think that’s part of the process to bring these things out and have a conversation, a hard conversation.” According to Sood, in all of his six years on the commission, he has never seen any commissioner removed by their district council member.
Davila spoke at the beginning of the meeting about her dismissal. She was followed by many members of the community, such as University of California Berkeley professor Hatem Bazian.
Despite being supported by many members of the commission as well as support from community members who were present at the meeting, the resolution failed to gather the six out of eleven votes needed to move on to the city council. Only three members of the commission spoke against it. The commission decided to work on the resolution and propose it again at a later date.
The resolution was drafted by Davila, in cooperation with Noah Sochet, the former chair of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, and Carol Sanders, a lawyer and member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). It was written with input from groups like Palestine Legal and Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC).
If passed, it would then go on to the City Council to call on Berkeley to divest from all holdings in companies “participating in ongoing violations of human rights and international law in occupied Palestinian territories.” It also would add Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Berkeley’s “Oppressive States List.”
Palestine Legal is providing legal assistance in the wake of Davila’s removal. Liz Jackson, a legal attorney from Palestine Legal representing Davila, said that they are deciding what actions to take in response to the violation of Davila’s right to freedom of speech. “The council member removed her in order to extinguish a conversation about the Israel-Palestine conflict,” Jackson said. “That violates the spirit of grassroots democracy … And it possibly violates her constitutional rights.”
At its next meeting the commission will vote to fill the vacant seat, in which Davila will be permitted to attend. If elected to her original seat she would no longer be able to be removed by a district’s Council member. In addition, at next month’s meeting the commission will vote on whether the resolution will move to City Council.