The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

“She wanted to be there for the kids”: Children at Pro-Palestine Encampment Express Solidarity

Kids play, make art, and paint protest signs in the pro-Palestine encampment
The+kids+tent+in+the+encampment.+
Katherine Weaver
The kids tent in the encampment.

Sitting under the “Hind House Daycare” tent, nine-year-old Dinya is drawing with a blue pencil on a coloring book sheet. In the middle of the picture, a firepit burns with a police shield inside of it while children play trumpets and watch on from the side. At the top of the picture, a message is written in bold lettering: 

“Nothing ever burns by itself. Every fire needs a little bit of help.” 

Dinya said the scene on the page meant that the kids were happy, and that this picture makes her think about kids in Gaza, which often makes her emotional. “So I’m drawing, and I’m just hoping that they’ll get peace,” she said.

When Dinya feels mad, she likes to color all her emotions out. In the “Hind House Daycare” tent, named after five-year-old Hind Rajab, organizers have gathered colored pencils, coloring book sheets, and bubbles for children visiting the encampment. Many of the children weaving in and out of the tent wear keffiyehs draped over their shoulders. 

On Saturday, as with each afternoon this past week, children and their parents have filtered into the pro-Palestine encampment on the main quad to play, make art, and paint protest signs.

On the other side of the “Hind House Daycare” tent, organizers have set up another kids’ tent where Alyssa Hulme (MAPSS ’24) and her four children are painting signs on large pieces of cardboard. Hulme first brought her children to the encampment after school on Monday when it launched, and she noticed that there were many kids around. 

“Parents were kind of hesitant to get involved or just didn’t know what they could do to help. And so I decided to help start a little kids corner for kids to play on.” 

According to Hulme, most of the kids hanging around are the children of Ph.D. students, professors, and community members. Many of the kids there have met and formed friendships with each other and played games with encampment participants.

“We’ve been talking about the war in general. And that’s just been a really heavy topic,” Hulme said of discussion with her family. But her kids “wanted to do something to help,” and have been spending most afternoons at the encampment since it began on Monday morning. 

Hulme has brought her kids to pride parades and women’s rights marches before but never to an encampment. The family has not been staying overnight because of safety concerns, but Hulme said that organizers had placed the kids’ tent near the first aid tent and have been in regular contact with Hulme, giving her warning if they were concerned about any sort of violence in or near the encampment.

“We wanted to make sure we had a kid-friendly place when it was safe,” she said. According to Hulme, the organizers had also provided snacks, hand sanitizer, and even ponchos for the children.  

She also said that in bringing her children to the encampment she wanted “to take away some of the stigma and fear that ‘Oh, these are dangerous places,’ or that ‘it was so out of control.’”

Hulme was in middle school during 9/11 and remembers “the racial hatred that came after that for Middle Eastern people.” Her decision to participate in the encampment is mainly informed by her faith and her desire to be a role model for her children. 

Hulme’s family belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “One of our core beliefs is that we should mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and stick up for people that are marginalized,” she said. 

She also wants her children to experience the encampment “to be a part of history in real time.”

Hulme hopes to give her children an experience where they could “do something productive with their pain.” She says it has been healing for her children “to actually feel like they were doing something to let their voices be heard.”

Hulme’s eldest daughter, 12-year-old Ellie, has been painting a new sign in the tent. Ellie is normally not allowed to say curse words, but Hulme says “in this context, I’ll allow it.”

So Ellie reads the sign: “Get your fuck ass head away from Palestine.” 

A child painting a poster in the kid’s tent. (Elena Eisenstadt)

Ellie has been making lots of signs. Most of them say things like, “You’re killing children,” but she thinks this new sign is more powerful. “It just makes it seem like it’s from someone older, and so it’ll be taken more seriously,” she said. She plans to hold the sign herself in future rallies.

Ellie thinks kids are often not taken seriously with their opinions. “They fight with their siblings to get the parents’ attention. They, like, steal snacks from the kitchen because they want to show their parents that they can handle themselves. They do all this stuff, just to be noticed,” she said. 

She has enjoyed that the encampment can be a place for kids like herself to feel like they are helping others. 

As Ellie continues painting the word “Palestine” onto her cardboard, her youngest sister has begun playing with another young girl by the tent. The latter girl’s mother, Duygu Uygun Tunc, is a collegiate assistant professor in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division and a Harper-Schmidt fellow in the Society of Fellows.

“I feel responsible to prevent, as far as possible, this encampment from being disturbed in any way,” Tunc says of her presence at the encampment. Additionally, Tunc wants “to join the statement that is being voiced here in some capacity. And I want my kids to sort of breathe this kind of air. It’s like, that’s their first experience.”

Tunc’s daughter is three years old, and this week Tunc says she has learned a new word: “protest.”

Tunc has defined this new word for her daughter by telling her: “In a faraway land, there are very hungry kids. And there are some people who are preventing them from having food, and we are protesting them and telling them to stop. We want this to end. So we are for the kids. And she wanted to be there for the kids.”

Editor’s note: All parents consented to have their children interviewed for this article and to include their first names.

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About the Contributors
Elena Eisenstadt, Grey City Editor and Senior News Reporter
Elena Eisenstadt (A.B. '26) is a second-year majoring in history and Spanish. She is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and will talk about the city for hours if you let her (even the public transportation, her greatest love-hate relationship). Elena is interested in local investigative journalism and has written for places like Ms. Magazine, The Philadelphia Citizen, Nosher, and The Trace. Outside The Maroon, you can find her performing stand-up, coming up with elaborate travel itineraries, and wearing clothes she stole from her mom’s closet.
Katherine Weaver
Katherine Weaver, Deputy News Editor, DEI Board
Katherine Weaver is a third-year in the College pursuing a double major in English and creative writing. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Katherine's affinity for grammar and very strong opinions about comma usage led her straight to The Maroon in her first year. Outside of The Maroon, she enjoys working at UChicago student-run literary magazine Euphony, as well as working on the occasional Fire Escape Films production.
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Comments (6)

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  • B

    Best Commenter By Far / May 14, 2024 at 4:24 pm

    Love all the pearl-clutching in this comment section by clueless myopic hysterics. That you could find anything about this children’s activity space obscene, while having no problem with tens of thousands of tons of explosives being dropped on a civilian population for months on end, speaks loudly and clearly about your characters (I mean: lack thereof).

    If these protests make you mad: stay mad. Your confused whining is music to my ears and is a silver lining to this whole horrific story.

    Reply
  • P

    Peter / May 7, 2024 at 6:58 pm

    Satire??

    Reply
  • A

    a UC parent / May 7, 2024 at 10:06 am

    I have read this piece more times than I care to admit. Each time, I tried to find some scrap of common ground I might share with this mother.

    But, I cannot find any.

    Under the guise of behaving with some sort of moral imperative, her children are learning how to hate others. It’s tragic that her 9 year old believes that peace will come from the flames of hatred.

    And the picture of her 12 year old painting a crass placard of hate will haunt me for quite some time. . .

    I wish for something much better than this – for all our children.

    Reply
  • L

    Least Radicalized Teaching Assistant / May 6, 2024 at 4:15 pm

    Why let your children be kids when you can indoctrinate them into your global intifada and use them as human shields. Why don’t all parents do this? Are they stupid?

    Reply
  • J

    Just a Guy Paying The Tuition / May 6, 2024 at 3:31 am

    Wait. I am so confused. I am the parent of a second year student and am telling my 20 year old to stay as far away from the encampment as possible. We know from history and recent events at other schools that violence can flare very quickly. There are some encampment members with shields and sticks, waiting for something to happen, ffs. And you bring your kids to color and make signs? I get wanting to do something to teach kids empathy, but I don’t get people taking their kids into fortified encampments to do it.

    Reply
  • J

    Joe / May 5, 2024 at 1:19 pm

    Absolutely beautiful, let’s teach our children to hate cops, Israelis and anyone else we disagree with. Oh and use curse words…

    Reply