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Students for Justice in Palestine lead silent protest through campus

The group demonstrated for National Student Day of Action for Divestment

American University Students for Justice in Palestine called on the University to end support of Israel on Thursday, Feb. 8 for the National Student Day of Action for Divestment

Beginning outside Kerwin Hall, about 30 demonstrators carrying signs walked silently through the quad, the School of International Service building and the Mary Graydon Center before lining up outside the front steps of MGC. There, an organizer broke the silence to give a speech calling on the University to cut support for Israel. 

SJP’s march through SIS and MGC made it the first group to demonstrate inside since the University’s recent ban on indoor protesting.

Many protesters wore face coverings such as masks, scarves or keffiyehs — traditional scarves that represent Palestinian identity, resistance and solidarity — and declined to speak to The Eagle out of concern for their safety. 

Outside of MGC, an organizer from SJP said they had gathered as part of the National SJP Chapter’s National Student Day of Action for Divestment to call on the University to cut ties to Israel. The speaker also criticized the University’s Center for Israel Studies and study abroad programs in Israel, noting that the University only has one course specifically on Palestine — AWST-440 Palestine: Land, Life, Dignity. 

The speaker’s criticisms of the University echoed the concerns SJP shared in a statement to The Eagle on Feb. 9. The statement said the University is complicit in the Israel-Hamas war and that SJP would continue protesting until the University pulled funding from programs and companies with ties to Israel. 

“AU SJP held a silent protest today to let our signs and our actions speak for themselves,” the group wrote. “Time and time again we have protested and made our voices heard, yet administration still undermines us. Today we want to let American University know that we will not rest until they divest from any programs or funding related to Israel. Enough is enough. Our tuition should not be going to support a settler colonial entity with genocidal goals.” 

Jasmine Pelaez, the University’s internal communications manager, said the University declined to comment on this demonstration and the concerns in the above statement, instead referring to previous comments about similar concerns raised at the Palestine Solidarity Coalition silent protest outside the Feb. 1 Sine Fellows panel and SJP’s campus protest on Jan. 26. 

After the speech, another organizer led the crowd in a set of chants including “divestment now” and “students, students don’t be blind; AU’s funding genocide.”

When the protest dispersed, some students from the small crowd that had watched from the quad applauded and cheered. 

Undergraduate Senator-at-Large Manas Atluri, a sophomore in SIS and the Kogod School of Business, was in the crowd watching. He said that he is working closely with organizations on campus to fight against the University's ban on indoor protests. 

“Protests should never be censored in any way, shape or form,” Atluri said. 

Atluri added that he does not think that the ban will stop students from fighting for causes they’re passionate about.

“[President] Sylvia [Burwell] should have never done that in the first place,” Atluri said. “And I think that doing that just makes us want to do more protests.” 

In the meantime, SJP said its members will continue to call on the University to support Palestinian students and cut ties with Israel. 

“This university has numerous ties to the Israeli Occupation making us complicit in the genocide happening right before our eyes,” SJP concluded in its statement to The Eagle. “We will not stand by as our money goes to killing and erasing our Palestinian brothers and sisters.”

This article was edited by Zoe Bell, Abigail Turner and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Ariana Kavoossi.

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