Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Over 300 attend protest for Palestine

SJP organizes protest amidst Israel’s siege and bombardment of Hamas
Kira Johnson

On Oct. 12, over 300 people gathered in front of the Student Union to protest in solidarity with Palestine. The University of Massachusetts chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine coordinated the march that traveled down North Pleasant Street and around the Fine Arts Center, concluding with a return to the Student Union. 

The protest comes days after the recent attack on Israel by Hamas, a militant organization governing the Palestinian territory of Gaza. The acts of terror by the group killed over 1,300 people, mainly civilians, and abducted over 150. The invasion was part of a longstanding conflict stemming from the Israeli capture of Palestinian territories over the last 55 years.    

Israel has retaliated, bombarding the Gaza Strip and laying siege to the region’s resources, killing around 1,500 people and leaving over 300,000 Palestinians homeless. Two million residents are facing shortages of food and hospitals are overwhelmed by wounded patients. 

Many who congregated were dressed in Palestine’s red, white, black and green, some adorned with a keffiyeh, a black and white scarf worn to represent Palestinian solidarity and identity. Many in the crowd held signs signaling for the end of U.S. aid to Israel as well as the end of Israeli occupation of Gaza.

Kira Johnson

“Free free Palestine!” “One two three four, occupation no more!” and “Long live the intifada!” were just some of the chants that reverberated down the line of protestors occupying the sidewalk. Intifada is an Arabic word that literally means “shaking off” but in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict relates to civil uprising. 

Small altercations with counter-protesters sparked at various points throughout the demonstration, one such causing a temporarily split in the crowd due to yelling and confrontation. Around three others were present by the end of the protest displaying Israel’s flag. Numerous counter-protester exclamations were directed towards the abductions and killings by Hamas. 

SJP members announced to the crowd that due to death threats they had received and their criticism of media coverage, interviews would be denied. Protestors echoed this concern, refusing to be named in the article. SJP did not respond to a request for comment by the Daily Collegian.

Upon returning to the Student Union, several SJP leaders and others took to the megaphone to express their support for the Palestinian people suffering in Gaza and the success of the Palestinian revolution. 

“Our people have broken down the artificial barriers of the Zionist entity, taking with it the facade of an impenetrable settler colony and reminding each of us that total return and liberation to Palestine is near,” a SJP speaker said.

“Colonization is violent, Israel is violent, so decolonization is also going to be violent,” a SJP speaker said.

Kira Johnson

“This most recent escalation for the resistance is in no way unprovoked. It is a direct response to 75 years of the ongoing Nakba,” another SJP speaker said. Nakba refers to the mass displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. 

A member of the Graduate Employee Organization spoke in solidarity with the protestors, emphasizing that GEO endorsed the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in 2016. The movement aims to pressure Israel to abide by international law and halt colonization of Palestinian land. 

SJP read their response to Chancellor Reyes’s statement regarding the conflict on Instagram. Addressing the crowd, speakers expressed feeling a contrast between how Palestinian and Israeli issues are valued. 

“Your email states that your focus is supporting students being affected by these tragic events,” the response stated. “But Palestinian students do not seem to be included in that,” an SJP speaker added.  

“By ignoring this [Palestinian history] and putting forth a narrative of an ‘unprovoked/ unprecedented’ attack,” the statement continues, “Chancellor Reyes is being misleading at best, and shamefully insidious at worst.”

In a statement to the Collegian, UMass Spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said that Chancellor Reyes is still hopeful that the campus community will promote “civil and respectful dialogue.”

The resources listed in his message – and the commitments behind them – are for all students. Similarly, the University’s commitment to providing a safe, respectful environment for the sharing and discussion of opposing viewpoints extends equally as far,” Blaguszewski said.

SJP presented a list of demands, some of which were for the University, which included releasing a statement in solidarity with Palestinians and “a campus wide condemnation of the normalized anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic sentiment on campus,” according to SJP’s Instagram post

This is an ongoing story. 

Micah McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and Jack Underhill can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @JackUnderhill16. 

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