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

Protesters surround Whitmore building in support of “Shut it Down for Palestine” movement

Students for Justice in Palestine and Dissenters organize another protest outside Whitmore in solidarity with Palestine
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

On Thursday, Nov. 9, over 100 people, composed of University of Massachusetts students, faculty and other community members gathered outside the Whitmore Administration Building in support of “Shut It Down for Palestine,” a nation-wide movement organized by multiple pro-Palestinian groups. The protest was led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Dissenters.

Despite the frigid temperature, the protesters stayed for several hours, surrounding the building while carrying signs with slogans such as “From the river to the sea,” “UMass you have blood on your hands,“Zionism = Genocide” and chants like “Chancellor Reyes you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide.” 

“We are gathered today because the university and Chancellor Reyes continue to be complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people, funding the U.S. war machine,” two speakers stated at the start of the protest. 

The Chancellor and the University have been criticized by pro-Palestinian groups on campus in the weeks following the arrest of 57 students during a sit-in at Whitmore. 

We were very disappointed with the response of the university calling in the UMPD to arrest students instead of responding to these extremely reasonable demands that UMass not be complicit in Israel’s genocidal action,” Tarang Saluja, a first-year economics Ph.D. student, who has been involved in SJP chapters since his undergraduate degree said.

The speakers listed the stipulations of the protesters, one being that the University cut ties with companies associated with Israel, such as Raytheon Technologies, a defense and aerospace company that is arming Israeli troops. The group is also demanding that “Chancellor Reyes makes a statement condemning Israel’s genocide of Gaza and voice full support for Palestinian, Arab, Jewish and Muslim students.”

“We are going to show Chancellor Reyes that there will be no business as usual on campus until our demands are met,” Lynnea Mayorga, a technical assistant in psychological and brain sciences and one of the speakers said. 

As the death toll of Palestinians exceeds 10,000, copies of documents from the Gaza-based Ministry of Health were passed around during the protest. The papers listed the names and ages of Palestinians who were killed since Oct. 7 on the Gaza Strip, many among them not even one year old. Silence settled over the large crowd as some of these names were read aloud.     

In the wake of these deaths, students involved with SJP spoke out about the moral obligation they feel to make their voices heard 

“Ultimately, I think all of us are here because there’s a genocide going on, and as long as our UMass money and our tax dollars are going to the genocide, then we all have a duty to speak up and fight against that, Mayorga said 

Saluja reflected on the emotional impact that the conflict has had: “It’s very difficult to just be a student going to class daytoday while knowing that my friends and my comrades, their families are in danger.”  

Other student groups came out alongside SJP and Dissenters to show their support. Ava Hawkes, a senior economics major and the co-chair of the Young Communist League at UMass, said, “[YCL has] fraternal organizations in Israel-Palestine, we are fraternally associated with the Communist Party of Israel, the People’s Party in Palestine It’s my responsibility, not just because I feel personally passionate about this, but because I’m part of a nationwide, long-existing organization that has international fraternal parties, that’s why I have to be here.” 

The Student Government Association released a statement earlier the same day about the ongoing war and several protesters expressed their disappointment. 

We’re not satisfied with it, obviously, because we do want the student government to come out more fiercely in support of Palestine, and Palestinian and Arab students when it comes to what they’re facing,” Hawkes said.

Protesters also vocalized their outrage in the wake of Brandeis University banning their campus’ chapter of SJP earlier this week. “We think [the ban] is an attack on our free speech,” Saluja said. 

SJP and Dissenters also released a joint statement, saying “UMass SJP and Dissenters stand in solidarity with Brandeis SJP, as well as the other pro-Palestinian student groups all over the world facing the suppression, doxxing, and threats of violence we are seeing. We applaud Brandeis SJP for their commitment to the liberation of Palestine, and hope that the students of Brandeis University can continue within this movement despite the university’s abhorrent response.”  

SJP, Dissenters and other supporters of Palestine have no plans to stop protesting the conflict anytime soon.  

“We’re here to show Chancellor Reyes that just because he won’t meet our demands, or just because he is not friendly to student protestors, doesn’t mean that we’re going to leave him alone, Hawkes said.

Sophie Machernis can be reached at [email protected]. Sadaf Tokhi can be reached at [email protected] 

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