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June 13, 2024

Curtis Jones exits Thursday's City Council meeting after resident's statement about Gaza is interrupted

After Kate Perez, who regularly speaks about the conflict with Israel and Hamas during sessions, was cut off by Councilmember Cindy Bass.

Government City Council
Curtis Jones leaves Michaela Althouse/PhillyVoice

Councilmember Curtis Jones, near the bottom left of this photo wearing a dark suit, walked out of Thursday's City Council meeting after a person speaking about Gaza was interrupted by Councilmember Cindy Bass.

Councilmember Curtis Jones abruptly left Thursday's City Council meeting in a show of support for a resident who had been cut off while speaking about the war in Gaza. 

Kate Perez speaks on the topic regularly during the public comment portion of council's weekly meetings, and she was at the microphone Thursday when Jones walked out. About 45 seconds into Perez's comments 8th District Councilmember Cindy Bass, interrupted and repeatedly asked Perez to limit her comments to her thoughts on the city's budget.

MORE: City Council unanimously approves Mayor Cherelle Parker's first budget

"Can you go back to the operating budget, which is what you signed up to speak about?" asked Bass, who had been temporarily presiding over the meeting for Council President Kenyatta Johnson at the time.

To speak during the public comment portion of City Council's meetings, a person must sign up for a 2-3 minute time slots and indicate the topic they will address. Perez had signed up to speak Thursday about the city's operating budget, which was up for approval during the meeting.

She seemed like she was going to speak about the budget but then veered toward speaking on the war in Gaza. When she was interrupted by Bass again, Jones spoke up, advocating for Perez's free speech. 

"Councilmember Jones, you're aware when folks sign up to speak on a certain topic, that is what we ask them to speak about," Bass said. 

Jones, the 4th District councilmember, repeated a comment about the importance of free speech and then left council chambers. Bass left the chambers, too. Shortly after Jones returned and apologized to Bass before leaving again for what he said was council business. He asked to be recorded as 'yes' on all votes for the remainder meeting.

Bass and Jones have publicly supported a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the past, and Jones also defended Perez during a similar incident in March. The Inquirer's Anna Orso and Sean Walsh tweeted about the situation with Walsh posting Jones and Bass spoke privately outside chambersfor a few minutes and "emerged all smiles."

After the meeting, Perez said she had signed up to speak on the operating budget, focusing on funding going to the Philadelphia Police Department, but ended up speaking about aid workers in Palestine. 

"I've seen people talk about multiple bill numbers, I've seen people just go off on tangents," Perez said. "But I won't hold it against her (Councilmember Bass)." 

Following Perez, several more member of the public spoke about Gaza. Another speaker also was asked to stick to comments about the operating budget by Johnson.