Students demonstrate on campus in support of Palestine

Protesters gathered at SIS, MGC to call for University acknowledgment of “genocide”

Students demonstrate on campus in support of Palestine

The Eagle’s photographers captured this event. View the photo essay here.

About 50 demonstrators and speakers called on American University President Sylvia Burwell to condemn the killing of Palestinian people which protestors deemed a “genocide.”

Around 15 protesters dropped banners and flyers detailing “The Reality of Gaza” from multiple balconies in the School of International Service building and led chants before being removed from the building by the AU Police Department. Demonstrators and bystanders then marched to the front steps of Mary Graydon Center where they chanted, waved Palestinian flags and spoke to the crowd.

Once at MGC, protesters called for Burwell to condemn Israel’s actions in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, remove any financial investments that the University has in weapons manufacturing and offer support to Palestinian students. 

Samar Siddig, a sophomore in SIS, said she participated in the demonstration because she wanted to show empathy for the lives lost in Palestine.

“It’s a matter of humanity, they are also human and they are being killed right now, as we speak,” Siddig said. “I understand [Hamas] kidnapped people, I understand that it’s awful on both sides, but people are being killed, slaughtered, murdered, bombed.”

Andrew El-Kadi, the University’s director of technology and analytics, witnessed the demonstration. He said that he understood the anger and desire to protest since he has family living in Palestine.

Some speakers and attendees covered their faces with masks or keffiyehs –– traditional scarves that historically have symbolized Palestinian identity and resistance. Many of those who participated in or witnessed the demonstration chose not to speak to The Eagle on the record out of fear for personal safety. 

College campuses across the United States have faced violent threats amid rising tensions in the Israel-Hamas war. On Oct. 25, Burwell announced that the University and the FBI were investigating what Burwell called a “note containing hateful and threatening anti-Palestinian messages” that was found in a Palestinian faculty member’s office in Kerwin Hall.

On Nov. 1, AU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine organized a walkout to demand administrative support for Palestine and an end to the University’s ties with weapons manufacturers that send weapons to Israel. 

In January 2021, Wesley Bush was appointed to the University’s Board of Trustees after serving as the chairman and chief executive of Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers and military technology providers, until 2019. According to the American Friends Service Committee, Northrop Grumman manufactures multiple weapons systems used by the Israeli military. 

Heba Ghannam, a doctoral student in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that she hopes the demonstration urges the University to recognize the high number of casualties suffered by Palestinians in Gaza.

“Because the University leadership has been consistent in making Palestinian struggle invisible and erase them and we’re trying to counter that,” she said. “We’re trying to make the 10,000 lives that were lost important to them, because I guess they’re not.”

Zoë Bell contributed reporting to this article.

This article was edited by Kate Corliss, Zoë Bell, Jordan Young and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Luna Jinks.

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