Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Hundreds call for Gaza ceasefire, divestment from Israeli military at Saturday rally

Hundreds+of+protesters+marched+to+Northwestern+President+Michael+Schill%E2%80%99s+residence+Saturday+afternoon%2C+demanding+the+University+divest+from+arms+producers.+Demonstrators+rallied+in+Fountain+square+before+marching%2C+calling+for+a+ceasefire+in+Gaza.
Beatrice Villaflor/The Daily Northwestern
Hundreds of protesters marched to Northwestern President Michael Schill’s residence Saturday afternoon, demanding the University divest from arms producers. Demonstrators rallied in Fountain square before marching, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

As a line of protesters spanning a quarter mile marched along Sheridan Road toward Wieboldt House — Northwestern President Michael Schill’s residence — Saturday afternoon, they chanted “Free, free, Palestine.” 

The march was part of a pro-Palestine rally held Saturday. Over 500 NU students, Evanston residents and protesters from around the Chicago area gathered at Fountain Square to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.  

Waving Palestinian flags and holding signs reading “end Israel apartheid” and “resistance is justified,” protesters listened to 10 speakers who provided context for the Israel-Hamas conflict, shared personal experiences and called for action. 

Saturday’s rally came amid the Israeli military’s continuous bombardment, blockade and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip after Hamas — a militant group the U.S. government labels a terrorist organization — launched a surprise attack on Israel Oct. 7. Over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed since, and over 1,400 Israelis were killed in the initial attack on Israel, according to Palestinian and Israeli authorities.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters held rallies around the world, including in the U.S., demanding a ceasefire.

An immediate ceasefire in Gaza is the “bare minimum,” said Karla Thomas, an NU Ph.D. candidate in human development and social policy. She called for an end to Israeli occupation in Palestine, granting Palestinian statehood and reparations to Palestinians. 

She also said Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, pointing to the Genocide Convention’s definition for the term.

“Today cannot be the only day you speak out loud,” said Thomas, who helped organize the event and is a member of Every Single Person Committed to Anti-Racism. 

Thomas and other speakers urged attendees to ask their elected representatives to support a ceasefire and stop supporting the Israeli government and military. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was the first senator to call for a conditional ceasefire in Gaza on Thursday.

Two other NU students, both members of Students for Justice in Palestine’s NU chapter, also spoke to the crowd. Thomas did not say their names while introducing them. 

One student said this was the most support for Palestine they had ever seen at NU or experienced across the nation.

“As a Palestinian, I am filled with gratitude to see the amount of people here today, particularly the non-Palestinian allies,” they said. “Justice for this cause absolutely cannot be achieved without you and your solidarity.” 

Participants from other advocacy groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace and Chicago Area Peace Action, also attended the rally. 

Seph Mozes, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, said while growing up in a Jewish family with relatives who were killed in the Holocaust, he was taught to not stay silent about genocide so people can prevent it from happening again. 

“I could not imagine a worse insult — a worse betrayal of my ancestors who were killed in a genocide — than committing another genocide in their name,” Mozes said.

Other Jewish protesters also said they oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza. 

Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel was “horrible,” but it doesn’t justify punishing all the Palestinians in Gaza, said Simon Piller, a Jewish Chicago area resident. 

“I’m hoping that people will see it and get involved with the struggle,” Piller said. “And ultimately, it gets to the Israelis and they realize the world is not for bombing the hell out of Palestinians.” 

Chicago area resident Aby Karottu read a statement from Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board member and Palestinian American Omar Salem, who was unable to attend the rally. At several points during the reading, Karottu seemed to tear up.

Growing up, Salem was taught to hide his Palestinian identity, he wrote. But that shame was “no match for the pride my father instilled in me,” he added.

“I want my children to see me be an active part of this movement so that they, unlike me when I was their age, can safely and publicly be their full, beautiful, celebrated, authentic selves,” Salem wrote. 

After two hours of speeches and chants, most of the crowd marched north toward Schill’s residence. At times, the protesters formed a line that spanned several blocks. As they marched, they chanted “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” and other slogans.

Many protesters called out President Joe Biden and the U.S. government for financially supporting the Israeli military. Attendees also chanted slogans directed at Schill, who sent a statement asking NU community members to be “passionate about our beliefs while also being compassionate to those with whom we disagree,” Saturday morning. 

“The response from President Schill to the Northwestern community lacked any sort of empathy or humanity for the Palestinian people,” Thomas said as the crowd gathered in front of Schill’s residence. “Northwestern intertwines its financial security and uplift with many companies who are profiting from this military engagement.” 

Several members of NU’s Board of Trustees have served as executives at companies that supply arms to Israel, including Boeing and General Dynamics. 

A small group of protesters not affiliated with the event’s organizers carried two flags featuring Hamas symbols. Thomas said after she asked them to move away from the main site of the demonstration multiple times, they walked away from the crowd to face Orrington Avenue. Thomas said none of the event organizers support Hamas “in any way.” 

This event was the first protest Elgin resident Jennifer Vega has attended, she told The Daily after the event. Coming to the protest helped release some of the anger that had built up as she learned about what was occurring in Gaza, she added.

“I brought the wrong shoes — my ankles are bleeding, probably,” she said after the march. “(But) I think the people in Gaza are going through a lot worse, so I have nothing to complain about … People should be grateful for the things they have right now and just speak up for the people that can’t.” 

Beatrice Villaflor contributed reporting.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the sources of the death tolls in the ongoing war.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @william2tong

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