Student organizations across campus staged a walkout on the Russell House Patio Thursday in order to continue showing their support for Palestine amid ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.
Students for Socialism, alongside the Arab Student Association, Dawah on Campus, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace gathered with students, faculty and staff, who were hold signs and chanting throughout the event.
Hamas, a terrorist group that is part of the Islamic Resistance movement, launched surprise attacks from the Gaza Strip into nearby Israel towns in early October, leading to a larger conlfict between the group and Israel, according to The Washington Post.
More than 10,000 Palestinans and 1,400 Israelis have died since the conflict began, according to PBS.
“We are here to stand against this cruel and oppressive occupation," said Andrés Gonzalez, a third-year sociology major and one of the organizers of the event. "We are here to stand against, we are here to stand for peace. We're here to demand a ceasefire, and we can't stop talking. We can't stop getting our voices heard. We have to keep doing this because if we don't, nothing's gonna happen and nothing's gonna get done about it, and people are gonna keep dying."
The event featured several speakers from across the organizations who coordinated the protest.
Sadeen Sarhan, a second-year cardiovascular technology student and member of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Arab Student Association spoke to the crowd about the number of civilians who have lost their lives and of the want for justice for Palestinians.
“Every single day, Palestinian men, women and children are killed by your tax dollars," Sarhan said. "Funded by the West and backed by the media, Israel is being given the power by the same officials that we put into office, and today we say ‘not in my name’. We stand here today, and all we ask for is justice."
Another speaker, Josh Cooper, represented the organization Jewish Voice for Peace. Cooper said Palestinians and Israelis should strive for a peaceful coexistence even as the both communities grieve for the lives lost.
“Even as I grieve, I cannot avoid hoping that the martyrdom of so many Palestinians will serve as a catalyst for change in the American Jewish community — that people will really rethink their support for the vicious war mongers and Tel Aviv and their allies," Cooper said. "Perhaps this terrible moment will show them that peaceful coexistence throughout historical Palestine is a way out of the abyss, that safety through solidarity is the only lasting solution.”
Russell Facemire, a graduate art history student and member of the United Campus Workers, was asked by Gonzalez to speak at the walkout. Facemire said he agreed because, even though he is a white American, he believes it is important to continue to raise awareness about what is currently going on in Palestine.
“My view of this is that if we don't keep up the political awareness of the situation, then nothing's going to stop," Facemire said. "It will go quiet and you know, the military occupation will continue.”
Between each speaker, various chants such as “Free Palestine,” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Ceasefire now” could be heard.
A few Jewish counter-protesters were also present . One of them, Michael Shtutman, an associate professor in the college of pharmacy, said he came to comfort Jewish students that might be present.
“(I wanted) to support Jewish and Israeli students who are in this kind of terrible, terrible time for Israel and everyone not feeling safe on campus, not feeling safe from this kind of event,” Shtutman said.
Students who were present at the event, such as Sarhan, urged other USC students to get involved and help raise awareness about the conflict in the Gaza Strip.
“We want the students at USC to get involved, to understand that there is a complex issue going on and that Palestine should be free," Sarhan said. "And to pretty much get involved and find ways that they can help and understand the issue from our side."
Editor's note: J'lyn Williams contributed to the reporting in this article.