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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

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SJP Begins Daily Quad Protest Advocating Palestinian Liberation

The protesters called on the University to divest from corporations that support Israel.
SJP+and+other+supporters+of+Palestine+chalked+pathways+and+created+signs+during+a+demonstration+on+the+quad
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SJP and other supporters of Palestine chalked pathways and created signs during a demonstration on the quad

Content warning: This article includes mentions of graphic violence.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UChicago demonstrated on the main quad today to show support for Palestinians amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip. SJP was joined by organizers with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Behind Enemy Lines, and other activist groups.

The protestors gathered at 10 a.m. with posters, Palestinian flags, and banners. They wrote slogans in chalk on the pathway and handed out informational flyers. In a post on social media, the group stated that they would “occupy the quad” every day, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., “until the genocide ends.”

The action comes amid Israel’s siege and bombardment of Gaza following Hamas’s October 7 attack. Over 4,000 Israelis and Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict since Hamas’s initial attack on October 7, according to the Associated Press.

SJP issued a statement on October 11 outlining its positions on the October 7 attack and Israel’s subsequent military action in Gaza.

“SJP UChicago stands in full solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation and unequivocal opposition to Israel’s escalating war of erasure, ethnic cleansing, and extermination,” the statement reads.

The sit-in drew a wide range of participants, including both students and community members not affiliated with the University.

During the 10-minute passing periods between classes, the group of activists, numbering several dozen, flanked the pathway through the center of the quad and chanted in support of the people of Gaza.

SJP’s Demands for UChicago

Protestors criticized UChicago’s investment strategies and called for the University to divest from weapons manufacturers and Israeli corporations.

“The University of Chicago directly funds Israel through their investments in a lot of weapons manufacturing companies, I think a few Israeli corporations,” an SJP organizer said. “That is part of our endowment, and that needs to be taken care of.”

The University stated in 2016 that it would not boycott any nation or divest from companies doing business in Israel.

The University has drawn community ire in the past for its investments in fossil fuels. In April, the University scored 0/40 points total in an Amnesty International report grading institutional endowments’ compliance with the United Nations’s Guiding Principles of Human Rights.

“Divestment is a philosophy, and funds and resources aren’t always financial,” the organizer continued. “We at the University of Chicago have a history of providing the intellectual justification for atrocities, the intellectual justification for occupation, dictatorships, et cetera. And divestment means divesting our intellectual clout, which we have built up from doing great things, from doing interesting things, and some really bad things as well.”

Responses to the Protest

Throughout the day, small groups spontaneously formed to the side of the main gathering and discussed the issue. Some raised concerns about the protest’s chants, such as their use of the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

One student group on the outskirts of the SJP protest displayed a large Israeli flag, which members of the group wrapped around their shoulders and held in front of them. Speaking on behalf of the group, one student said, “We’re not protesting. We’re not a counterprotest. We’re honestly just walking by, just watching.”

The student, who has lived in Israel, said “I think that America, the U.S., the rest of the world really blows everything out of proportion. To be honest, if you’ve lived in the Middle East, as many of us have, this is so not what it looks like there. If you sit in a library, you’re going to see Muslims and Jews standing next to one another, helping each other out,” she continued.

“We’ve all lost people—friends who we learned died by watching [on video] their bodies being dragged naked through the ground. A lot of us have lost family. And so when you stand out there and you say they deserve it, do you mean it? And if you don’t, why are you saying it?”

Later, a different student stood next to the SJP demonstration during passing periods and yelled slogans in opposition to the protest.

“This demonstration shows that they have no remorse and no sympathy for Jewish blood spilled,” she told The Maroon. “There’s no difference between this demonstration and everybody chanting ‘gas the Jews’ and everybody waving swastika flags. There’s absolutely no difference.”

Some students unaffiliated with the protest stood outside of the main quad watching the demonstration.

“I’m unsure what the purpose of this demonstration is,” a student onlooker said. “I’d like to know if there’s something they’re asking the University to do or if they’re just sort of causing noise on campus to try to get people’s attention,” they said.

A Divinity School alum who protested alongside SJP praised the discussion and debate happening alongside it.

“As an MDiv alum, we are trained to be conscientious thinkers. We are being trained to enter into religious leadership, into responding to our communities, and if I do not put that into practice, then I am being disloyal to the education that I was provided,” she said. 

“For the most part, it has been very peaceful, as it should be and as expected, and I am happy to see counterprotesters. I’m happy to see discourse as opposed to an utter lack of anything on campus and the silence of people as if it doesn’t concern them.”

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Emma Janssen, Deputy News Editor
Emma Janssen is a deputy news editor.
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    Harv Golob / Oct 30, 2023 at 10:26 pm

    The Gaza Strip is controlled and run by Hamas, a terrorist organization. This is a dictatorship which issues harsh punishment for any disagreement with Hamas. Justice for the Palestinians would be obtained by ridding Gaza of the Hamas Dictatorship. It is impossible for any democratic state, such as Israel, to make agreements with a dictatorship run by a terrorist organization. So, Justice in Palestine should mean: Ending the reign of terror by Hamas in Gaza.

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