On Friday, the University of Rhode Island community came together with one goal in mind: ceasefire in Gaza.
Over 50 students, faculty and community members gathered outside of the Multicultural Student Service Center to protest the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, recognize the loss of life and to call for a permanent ceasefire. The rally was organized by the Young Democratic Socialists of America of URI, the Muslim Student Association and the South Asian Student Association.
The rally featured a number of speakers from URI and around the area.
A major goal of the demonstration was to call on the University administration, particularly URI President Marc Parlange, to recognize the Palestinian side of the conflict and to condemn the actions of the Israeli government, according to third-year student and co-chair of URI YDSA Matthew Miller.
“We want him to make a statement recognizing and condemning the genocide is happening in Gaza,” Miller said.
The only published recognition from the University at this time was a statement released on Oct. 10, three days after the initial Hamas attack that catalyzed the current conflict. The statement made no explicit mention of the Palestinian people.
Along with recognition and condemnation, the rally was an event to push the University to divest from certain companies with ties to the conflict, according to Miller. Miller named Raytheon and Textron as two companies with ties to the University who are involved in the conflict.
“Stop accepting donations from companies that are committing genocide, because that relationship is basically pushing students into going into these types of careers that are that are funding a lot of bloodshed,” Miller said. “A peaceful solution needs to come. Military action has never fixed the conflict that’s going on in that area.”
Along with divestment by the University, organizers called on participants to contact their local Representatives and Senators to support a ceasefire bill.
“There are no one representatives currently in Rhode Island to have called for ceasefires,” Miller said. “There’s no one who is recognized and condemned the genocide yet. Continue to contact and start to contact your representatives, elected officials, people who are in the University, contact them so that you can have your voice heard and hopefully push for a change.”
One of the speakers, Ethan Major, a third-year economics and history major and secretary of URI YDSA, explained his experience as a Jewish person during the ongoing conflict.
“I thank the many Palestinians who make the distinction between Zionism and Judaism but it cannot be the responsibility of the oppressed to make this distinction,” Major said. “This is not a time for neutrality for my fellow Jews.”
His speech focused on the need to support one another, but also to condemn hatred whenever it can be seen.
“There needs to be mutual solidarity,” Major said. “We need to universalize my ideal; the value of justice and peace. I feel like I have a moral obligation to be doing this to support the people of Palestine.”
After three hours of speeches, chants and music, the event concluded, but many participants stayed to talk with speakers and organizers.
“I was really happy with the turnout,” Lina Al Taan Al Hariri, vice president of URI MSA said. “We cannot move forward unless we make ourselves heard. This is not a trend. This is a movement that will continue until the liberation of Palestine.”
More information about the groups involved in this event can be found on their Instagram pages: @uri.msa, @uri_ydsa and @sasa_uri.