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Hundreds participate in walkout in support of Palestine, dozens join counterprotest

A crowd of students gathers in front of a large brick building covered with ivy. The students hold signs and raise their fists up in the air. One student in the front of the crowd holds a Palestinian flag up in the air.
The protest for Palestine in front of Nassau Hall.
Louisa Gheorghita / The Daily Princetonian.

Amid a day of walkouts across college campuses nationwide, hundreds of students gathered to rally in solidarity with Palestine on Wednesday, Oct. 25. The demonstration began at noon on the north lawn of Frist Campus Center and eventually moved to Nassau Hall.

At the walkout, event organizers led a number of chants, including “Gaza must have food and water,” and “Israel, Israel, stop the slaughter.” At one point, the crowds chanted “Intifada, Intifada,” a chant that some have interpreted as calling for violence against Israelis. Organizers said the chant was calling for the “liberation of Palestine.”

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Throughout the day a smaller number of counter protesters held up photos of hostages and Israeli flags.

A TigerAlert warning of a “threatening social media post” was sent out at 11:37 a.m., around twenty minutes before the walkout. 

The threat prompted an increased presence of Public Safety (PSAFE) officers and Free Expression Facilitators, according to an email sent by Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Jarrett Fisher to three of the event’s organizers obtained by The Daily Princetonian.

A follow-up message sent at 2:19 p.m. read that “Law enforcement evaluated the threat and determined it to be unfounded.” 

The rally was organized by a group of graduate students at the University, but undergraduate groups such as Princeton’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) also promoted the event.

SJP declined to comment specifically on the walkout.

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The event comes after another rally in support of Palestine scheduled yesterday was canceled. Aditi Rao GS, a graduate student in the Classics department and one of the walkout’s organizers, told the ‘Prince’ in an interview that yesterday’s demonstration, which had been planned by faculty, was called off because “faculty didn’t realize that there was going to be a national day of organizing” on Wednesday.

An informal group of students organized a counterdemonstration, reciting psalms for people currently being held hostage by Hamas throughout the day by 1879 Arch. 

“In the Jewish tradition, responding to times of crisis by doing good deeds and with prayer are things that are important to me and to other members of the community as well,” Rebecca Roth ’24, president of Yavneh Princeton, an Orthodox Jewish community which helped organize the effort, said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’

“[We were] making sure that everyone else is aware of the fact that there are still over 200 people, many of whom are civilians, being held by Hamas in Gaza. And that is something that the world needs to be aware of,” Roth continued.

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During the walkout, a couple dozen people also stood silently across the lawn, separated by barricades. They held signs memorializing people that had been killed or kidnapped by Hamas. 

“Free Palestine from Hamas,” one sign from the counterprotest read. 

Rao told the ‘Prince’ that she reached out to University officials, including Fisher, requesting the presence of Free Expression Facilitators after learning about the counterprotest. 

Free Expression Coordinators are University staff members that attend “events where University policy on freedom of expression may be challenged.”

“It was very important to me that counterdemonstrations can also happen safely,” Rao said. 

During the rally, speakers called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In a speech delivered “on behalf of a concerned and agitated group of graduate students,” one of the organizers of the event said that “we condemn the ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, and ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.” 

Silvia Federici, a well-known socialist feminist scholar, also spoke at the event.

After the rally moved to the front of Nassau Hall, one man draped in an Israeli flag climbed the stairs to the building and stood silently in front of the entrance to the building.

The man — Ilai Guendelman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University — told the ‘Prince’ in an interview that he decided to come after receiving the email regarding a possible threat at the demonstration. 

Guendelman was joined by another man, Jordan Berman, later during the demonstration. Berman, who described himself as a local business owner, told the ‘Prince’ that he came up to Guendelman because “American Jews stand next to Israel.”

“Intifada intifada, long live the intifada,” some at the rally chanted, leading a few others to walk off.

Intifada, an Arabic word that translates to “shaking off,” refers to two Palestinian uprisings in the 1980s and 2000s. The first was a series of largely spontaneous demonstrations, boycotts, and riots. The second was far bloodier and led to increasing skepticism for negotiations for peace and a two-state solution. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, more than 6,300 Palestinians and nearly 1,100 Israelis were killed during the two conflicts.

“I think that chanting about the Intifada connects people to the first and second intifada that occurred in Israel,” Roth said. “And so, hearing a group of students on my campus use that same language is quite upsetting, and it’s a reminder of the terrorism that has and continues to target my friends, my loved ones in Israel.”

Rao told the ‘Prince’ that the term is a call for liberation, saying that “‘intifada’ and ‘revolution’ are synonymous with one another.”

“And the revolution of Palestine is about the liberation of Palestine,” she said.

Miriam Waldvogel is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Sandeep Mangat is a head News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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