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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Students repaint The Rock for Palestinian liberation after original message was painted over

Joyce Li/The Daily Northwestern
About 400 students left handprints in the colors of the Palestinian flag on The Rock Wednesday.

After messages in support of Palestine on The Rock were painted over Sunday, close to 400 students added their handprints to The Rock Wednesday in solidarity with Palestinian liberation. 

The weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Northwestern’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine painted the colors of the Palestinian flag and a Black Power fist on The Rock. They wrote phrases calling for “liberation for all,” “ceasefire,” “Black liberation” and an endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on its base. 

Over the weekend, The Rock was partially covered with purple paint and the Star of David. The phrase “Am Yisrael Chai” — “the people of Israel live” in Hebrew — was written on the surrounding fence.

“I think it’s disgusting that the school has formed committees for antisemitism but hasn’t … addressed the Palestinian students and Arab students that have been facing discrimination on this campus,” Weinberg senior Rebekah Soliman, who helped paint The Rock, said. “To see that in physical form through the defamation of The Rock just drives me even more to want to come for liberation.” 

University President Michael Schill announced the formation of the President’s Advisory Committee on Preventing Antisemitism and Hate in November. It includes students, faculty, trustees and administrators.

Schill — who faced blowback from students and faculty in November for not calling more attention to Islamophobia on campus in his initial announcement — singled out Islamophobia as one of several forms of hate the committee will address in a Tuesday message to the community.

On Wednesday, NU SJP invited students to leave handprints on The Rock in the colors of the Palestinian flag in an “All Hands for Liberation” event. Organizers provided paint and gloves for participants.

After repainting The Rock, students joined hands for a sunset vigil honoring the over 25,000 Palestinian civilians killed by Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip since the militant group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli and Palestinian authorities. 

SJP organizers read off a list of demands at the vigil, calling for the University to cut ties with companies supporting Israeli forces. These companies include Boeing and General Dynamics, whose former chief executive officers sit on NU’s Board of Trustees.

Organizers also demanded the University publish an annual financial report detailing all NU assets, including the assets of third-party investment managers, to ensure transparency. 

“Northwestern … should make it a priority to promote scholarship for the purpose of making a world in which it can exist without investing in death,” an SJP member, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said.  

Several students who attended the vigil recited works by Palestinian poets and original poems about the ongoing violence in Gaza.

SESP sophomore Malik Middleton, the external community outreach director of Vibrant Colors Collective, highlighted the role of artists in creating change.

“It is important for artists to also speak up and to do work that serves us and liberates us in every way possible,” he said. “Everyone has a role in liberation.”

Medill senior April Li, co-president of the Asian Pacific American Coalition and a former Daily staffer, said it’s important for the Asian American community to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. 

Li, whose father was a student in Beijing during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, said hearing about his experience taught her about the power students hold over their educational institutions. 

“(NU administrators) want you to think that you’re disempowered because they feel so threatened,” Li said. “But we outnumber them by so much, and we are the reason the University is successful. We bring in the knowledge, the resources, the money, so without us, they would be nothing.” 

Update: This story has been updated to address safety concerns for quoted individuals.

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Related Stories: 

Students for Justice in Palestine hosts vigil to honor lives lost in Gaza this week 

NU Students for Justice in Palestine leads walkout, calls for University divestment and support for Palestinians 

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

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