Columbia University pro-Palestine solidarity march draws hundreds

Columbia University pro-Palestine solidarity march draws hundreds
Thursday’s rally at Columbia University drew hundreds of pro-Palestinian supporters who advocated for a halt to ferocious attacks on Gaza which have killed thousands
4 min read
14 October, 2023
Pro-Palestine rally takes place at Columbia University [Getty]

Hundreds of students gathered at Columbia University in New York to protest against the ongoing attacks by Israel in Gaza on Thursday.  

Pro-Israeli students at Columbia, led by Students Supporting Israel (SSI), were also present to take part in a counter protest. 

Organizers from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace (JWP) led Thursday's pro Palestine protest, as participants discussed the struggle against Zionism, apartheid and racism. 

According to Patch, a speaker at the rally said he "urged universities, including CUNY, in which all students have the safety to express their political opinions [to] persist in their non-violent, protected speech." 

The Columbia Spectator reported that protesters have spoken out about an ‘atmosphere of fear among Muslim students on campus’.

Many students from the SJP group donned face masks, coverings or kuffiyahs- as an Instagram post by Columbia SJP explained it would help provide ‘safety from doxxing’.  

This comes after Harvard University’s Palestine Solidarity Committee and other student organisations have faced doxxing attacks and death threats, after issuing a statement condemning Israel’s ‘ongoing annihilation of Palestinians' amid the Gaza-Israel war. 

Tensions ensued during the opposing demonstrations when a number of counter-protesters at Columbia shouted angrily at the pro-Palestinian group- with a pro-Israel protester yelling during a moment of silence for Palestinian victims. 

Certain Israeli students have claimed that they have felt unsafe on campus in the wake of the ongoing conflict. Pro-Israel supporters claimed that Thursday’s pro-Palestinian rally was ‘celebrating death’

A pro-Palestinian protester argued however that the purpose of the protest is to “live free from occupation, free from colonial brutality, free from the violence that Israel constantly is constantly throwing at them”. 

The Palestinian death toll from Israel's strikes on Gaza is currently 2,200, with 40 per cent of casualties believed to be  children.  

She added, “That level of violence against Palestinians is very rarely discussed. Entire families have been killed.”  

While a 24-year-old student was allegedly beaten with a stick ‘for being Israeli’ outside Columbia’s Butler Library on Wednesday, two Jewish and two individuals of Middle Eastern background were also reportedly targeted during Thursday’s demonstration after waving a Palestinian flag and holding a sign which said, ‘End the War’.  

A man was accused of grabbing their Palestinian flag and proceeding to beat one of them with it. 

The New York Times additionally said that pro-Palestinian demonstrators during the protests were often subjected to racial harassment, such as being called ‘terrorists’ or ‘animals’.

In the lead up to Thursday’s protests, Columbia’s campus site would only be open to Columbia ID holders on the day of the protests ‘to ensure campus safety’. 

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of DAWN, shared concerns about the University restricting access to the public. Media reporters were later spotted filming the rallies at Columbia’s College Walk, which is the main route into Columbia's campus.

She tweeted, “Germany bans pro-Palestine protests. UK bans display of Palestine flag. NY law firm fires student promised job for pro-Palestine comments.” 

“And now Columbia University bans reporters from covering protests. This isn’t even a US war.” 

Meanwhile, at The University of Arizona, the Tucson chapter of SJP announced the cancellation of a protest on Thursday- citing safety concerns after the school's president called the gathering "antithetical to our university's values." 

Several students from the University of California’s chapter of SJP marched for Palestine on Thursday, despite the group's report that its student members had been harassed and assaulted over the last several days, including while counter-protesting a pro-Israel rally. 

At Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the SJP chapter chose to host a vigil on Thursday night but declined to allow media access "due to increased harassment and threats of violence against Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and anti-Zionist students across the country."