Over 300 demonstrators marched the perimeter of UB's North Campus academic spine Thursday afternoon in protest of Israel’s attacks on Gaza in the Israel-Hamas war, and what the UN calls apartheid conditions in Palestine.
Israel declared war on Hamas on Oct. 7, in response to Hamas’ attacks that have killed over 1,400 people in Israel. Since then, Israeli attacks in Gaza have killed nearly 4,000 people. Most of those killed were civilians. More than 1 million people in Gaza have been displaced by the fighting, in what the British Red Cross has called an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Demonstrators began gathering in front of Alumni Arena for the “March for Gaza” just before 2 p.m. Thursday, carrying flags and holding signs bearing messages including, “Our taxes are funding genocide,” “War is not the answer,” and “Bombing kids is not self defense.”
The march began to move along the Academic Spine around 2:20 p.m. Circling around the Natural Sciences Complex (NSC) and along Mary Talbert Way, demonstrators shouted chants of, “Free, free Palestine,” “End apartheid,” and “Palestine will never die.”
The group did not encounter any noticeable counter-protesters. This contrasted with demonstrations this Monday, in which about 30 marchers supporting Israel and about 30 counter-protesters advocating for Palestinians met in Founders’ Plaza, leading to some tense but peaceful arguments.
Ahead of Thursday’s march, UB Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which helped plan the event, posted guidelines for marchers. Many wore masks to hide their faces, citing safety concerns.
By 3:30 p.m., the march circled back to Founders’ Plaza, next to Capen Hall. Organizers scaled a picnic table to speak to the crowd through a megaphone. The speakers criticized Israel’s attacks and occupation of Palestine, and U.S. financial support of Israel.
“Whether or not you want to call it genocide, people are dying. Thousands and thousands of people are dying,” Jenna Mohamad, a 2022 UB alum and former president of SJP, said. “[Israel] is indiscriminately hitting civilians, children, mothers.”
Mohamad helped organize the march. She said that the campus community “demanded” action for Palestine, and that march planning began earlier this week.
“We get to speak our mind and do as much as we can to present [Palestinian] voices here. This is a free country and we do exercise that right,” Mohamad said. “Slowly people have been doing their own research and seeing that this is 75 years in the making.”
After the march, protesters brought up safety concerns on campus, saying that the events in Israel and Palestine have increased anti-Muslim sentiment and xenophobia. Some referenced recent incidents of hostility on social media.
“It gives people an avenue to openly be racist toward Muslims and Palestinians and Arabs,” Khalid Ghanim, a 2021 UB alum and former SJP e-board member, said.
The UB Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) has received reports of “general concerns” about social media content regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, but no specific reports of anti-Muslim or antisemitic harassment, a UB spokesperson said.
March organizers reached out to University Police on Monday to ask for assistance, according to a UPD spokesperson. UPD coordinated with marchers to provide extra officers along the route.
SJP announced that it will host an information session about Palestine in NSC 225 on Friday at 6 p.m.
UB urges students that feel threatened or harassed in any way to reach out to university officials. The UB Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 716-645-2266.
UPD can be reached at 716-645-2222.
Darcy Winter, Grant Ashley and Moaz Elazzazi contributed to the reporting of this story.
Ryan Tantalo is the managing editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Sol Hauser is a news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryan Tantalo is the managing editor of The Spectrum. He previously served as senior sports editor. Outside of the newsroom, Ryan spends his time announcing college hockey games, golfing, skiing and reading.