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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NU SJP protests at The Rock in solidarity with Columbia students after mass arrests

Beatrice Villaflor/The Daily Northwestern
Northwestern Students for Justice in Palestine stood in solidarity with its sister chapter at Columbia University after more than 100 were arrested at their Gaza Solidarity encampment.

Nearly 100 members and supporters of Northwestern Students for Justice in Palestine gathered at The Rock on Friday to stand in solidarity with Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

The protest comes after more than 100 Columbia students were arrested Thursday during a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” organized by Columbia SJP on its campus’ lawns. NU SJP’s rally was one of several held nationwide at schools like Harvard University, Boston University and the Ohio State University in the wake of the arrests.

NU SJP members passed out fliers that described the organization’s aim to “demand accountability from our university and vocally support the brave actions of Columbia demonstrators.” The group also called on NU to divest from the Israel Innovation Project and explicitly disclose its investments. 

The nationwide campaign comes as Israel’s military action in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian officials. Israel’s ground and air offensive follows the militant group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel which killed about 1,200 Israelis, according to Israeli officials.

Earlier this week, protesters gathered at The Rock during Wildcat Days, NU’s admitted students programming, to show admitted students “the real NU” and advocate for divestment from companies supporting Israel.

The crowd booed at mentions of the Board of Trustees — some of whom have served as executives at companies that supply arms to Israel

Bienen sophomore and NU SJP member Alex Neuser said it is exciting to see people energized about divestment and the organization’s cause.

“I’m just very optimistic about the future,” Neuser said. “I think this campus is ready to act. The student body is ready to act.”

Neuser said the group handed out fliers to passersby with the aim of educating the community and gathering support and momentum for NU SJP.

After chanting for about an hour, Neuser encouraged protesters to “spread a little beauty” on campus by writing pro-Palestinian and pro-divestment slogans in chalk. Protesters chalked the steps of University Hall, the facade of Kresge Hall and the pavement in front of The Rock.

An NU SJP student organizer who did not identify themselves at the protest said the rally was organized in less than 24 hours.

“Over 100 students (at Columbia) were arrested yesterday, and they still continue to protest and demand their university be accountable and demand their university divest from apartheid, and we want to do the same here,” the organizer said.

Weinberg senior and former Daily staffer Emilio Cabral said the protest’s cause is one he supports and believes in. He added that, as a creative writing major, he could not claim to write about oppressed people if he did not come to support Friday’s protest.

“We learn a lot about liberation and colonialism in class,” Cabral said. “It’s not theoretical.”

Grace Clifford, a first-year Ph.D. candidate in Russian literature and classical reception, addressed the crowd. She attended Columbia for her undergraduate degree and said she has been “on the verge of tears” the entire time the encampment has been ongoing.

“If anyone from Columbia right now hears this somehow, I want to say that everyone is in solidarity with you,” Clifford said at the rally. “We’re all united in this cause together.”

Clifford added that her alma mater has capitalized on being a school with a vibrant protest culture, and added that there are “troubling parallels” between Columbia’s discouragement of anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in 1968 and the current divestment encampment.

During the height of the Vietnam War, Columbia and Barnard College students shut down its campus operations by occupying five buildings including the president’s office. The police ended up dispelling the sit-in and arresting more than 700.

Clifford told The Daily she is proud of the students at Columbia for “putting so much on the line” with their demonstration, and said Columbia administration’s response has been heartbreaking and infuriating.

“The issues that we have here at Northwestern are issues that exist at Columbia as well, and I am so proud of how the Columbia students have chosen to take a stand,” Clifford said.

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Activist groups seek to show admitted students ‘real’ NU with protests across campus for divestment, support for Palestinians

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