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Pro-Palestine protesters force crucial Walsall council meeting to be abandoned

Protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza forced a crucial meeting of Walsall Council to be abandoned.

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Walsall Council chief executive Emma Bennett, Mayor Chris Towe and Deputy Mayor Anthony Harris are interrupted by protestors. PIC: Walsall Council webcast

Walsall’s 60 elected members were expected to debate and decide on important issues including the 4.99 per cent increase in council tax and cuts to services as part of the budget on Thursday night.

But, following the traditional pre-meeting prayer, Mayor Chris Towe was interrupted by the public gallery before he could start the usual order of business.

Ursula Walker, secretary of the Walsall Kobar Friendship Association was heard apologising for interrupting before adding a member of the public had tried to go through the procedure of tabling a question to the council but had been refused.

She went on to say the council had congratulated the group, set up to develop a friendship between Walsall and the village in the West Bank, back in 2008.

She said she was receiving reports from friends in Kobar who described the worsening situation as “horrible” and added: “As Walsall Council sent a message of friendship to the people of Kobar in 2008, will Walsall Council now call for an immediate ceasefire?”

Elected members in the chamber voiced their displeasure at the disturbance with leader Mike Bird calling for the gallery to be cleared.

Councillor Towe, alongside chief executive Emma Bennett, called for an adjournment and members were asked to leave the chamber as protesters were heard calling “shame” and “ceasefire”.

The adjourned meeting will be resumed on a date to be arranged.

A small number of councillors remained in their seats to listen to the concerns of the members of the public, including a group of former Labour members who left and became independent because of Keir Starmer’s stance on the conflict back in November last year.