Mamata Elangovan / The Highlander

A few dozen people gathered at the Highlander Union Building (HUB) as part of the National Student Day of Action for Divestment. The walkout and call for action took place on Thursday, Feb. 8 and began at 12:30 p.m. Major topics of discussion at the event surrounded claims of university complicity in genocide, dubious investments and called for holding the University of California, Riverside (UCR) accountable for their actions.

The walkout was hosted by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Riverside chapter and began with a few words from the organizers. The opening remarks began with an introduction of the organization and jumped into a series of chants, exclaiming, “Free, free, free Palestine!” “Not another penny! Not another dollar!” and “No more money for Israel’s crime!”

Two professors, along with the event organizers, came up to deliver statements during the duration of the protest that took place at the HUB. Professor David Lloyd of the English department and supervisor for SJP claimed that “our university, from the top down, is invested in that genocide by investing our dollars, your tuitions, into a genocidal set of corporations.” He also called for divestment from Starbucks, claiming that “the CEO of Starbucks is a union buster.” He also called for shutting down Education Abroad programs in Israel. These programs, Professor Lloyd claims, “discriminate against who you are; they will not allow you in on the basis of who you are. If you are Palestinian, if you are Muslim, if you happen to be a member of SJP.”

After that, Professor Dylan Rodríguez of the Media and Cultural Studies department delivered a statement regarding the conflict. He stated his belief on the importance of protest, claiming “what we are doing here seems modest but significant. Because we are advancing the liberation struggle in the cultural practice of not being underestimated.” He elaborated on the various actions students and professors can take as a “cultural front of liberation.”

These statements were delivered to a group of people sitting on the grassy field in front of the HUB. Many wore keffiyehs, and others held signs calling for university divestment. A group in the middle held up a nearly 40-foot-long sheet of paper, which the organizers state serves as a “physical demonstration” of the “fraction of the children in Gaza who were killed, who haven’t even reached the age of one.” The protest organizers took turns reading aloud the list of names, and in response, the crowd would say, “Not another number!”

After finishing the reading of the names, the crowd then mobilized towards Hinderaker Hall. On the way, they passed the banner that SJP had dropped from the HUB earlier, which read, “MURDERING 15000+ CHILDREN IS NOT SELF DEFENSE #FREEPALESTINE.” As they marched towards Hinderaker, the crowd continued to take part in chants and grew in numbers as more and more people joined in.

At around 1:30 p.m., the crowd arrived at Hinderaker Hall, nearing the end of the protest. There they directed a series of chants towards the administration in the building. Exclaiming statements such as “Wilcox Wilcox, you can’t hide! You are funding Genocide!,” “What do we want? Divestment!” and various other chants that they iterated throughout the day.

Sumehra Jamaah, a third-year transfer student majoring in biochemistry, elaborated on why she came out to the protest. She explained, “I think all the little steps in dismantling anything that supports Zionism is important. I wasn’t able to attend the previous two [protests], which is why I was really happy I got a chance to attend this [one] … You know, everyone thinks ‘I’m just one person,’ but a lot of people saying that adds up. It is important for everyone to take a stand when they can.”

A member of Graduate Students from Palestine also provided a comment on the protest, stating that “this is just the first step to bring awareness. After that, we plan on passing divestment on the university level and then pressuring campus administration to actually follow through with divestment.” They brought up a past example where in 2016, the university “was able to pull Sabra hummus off of the shelves for one month” until “alumni and local community members and donors kind of pressured the university to put it back on the shelves.”

The walkout ended at around 1:50 p.m. with a closing statement from the organizers. During this they explained that “we are taking part in this day, a united student-led transnational day of action. The student movement on campus is steadfast and committed to the liberation of the Palestinian people.” They ended by iterating that “we will continue to hold our university accountable until we witness a free Palestine and a ceasefire. Thank you all for gathering here today. This is the end of our protest, but it’s not the end of our struggle.”