Students Gather for Anti-War Protest in Damen, Call on University to Divest

Leen Yassine | The PhoenixMembers of Students for Justice in Palestine and ally student organizations are calling on the university to divest from companies that profit from war and violence.

Members from various Loyola student organizations gathered in Damen Student Center Feb. 23, calling on the university to financially divest from corporations that fund violence and war in other countries.

The Anti-War Demonstration — which took place Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. — was primarily organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a Loyola student group working to educate others about Palestine and life under Israeli occupation.

Leen Yassine | The Phoenix Demonstrators held up flags and a banner reading “War is Death” and “Loyola Divest” from the Damen Student Center’s second floor.

During the protest, around 20 students passed out brochures and held up flyers with information about SJP’s boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) efforts — a movement working to end financial support towards Israel and its oppression of Palestinians, according to the BDS website. Several other participants displayed flags of countries impacted by U.S. and Israeli violence from the student center’s second floor, alongside a banner reading “War is Death” and “Loyola Divest.”

The demonstration also featured speeches from the group’s president, Dunyah Abulaban, and Loyola Muslim Chaplain Omar Mozzaffer.

“When it comes down to it, it’s whether or not you support war, whether or not you support genocide, whether or not you support apartheid, occupation,” Abulaban, a senior psychology major, told The Phoenix. “That’s what it comes down to. I don’t think anyone can disagree — no one wants war.”

Leen Yassine | The Phoenix Dunyah Abulaban, president of Loyola’s Students for Justice in Palestine, said the Feb. 23 demonstration is about being anti-war.

Mozaffer also spoke out in support of BDS.

“At Loyola, we speak so much about social justice,” Mozaffer told The Phoenix. “For me, it becomes a contradiction that our university is invested, in whatever capacity, in companies that are war profiteers. … I’m not under any illusions that this is going to change things but it is at least going to draw attention to it, and that’s at least the least we can do.”

SJP lists several companies on the brochures passed out during the protest which it’s calling on Loyola to divest from.

Abulaban said SJP worked with ally organizations on campus to organize Wednesday’s demonstration, including LUC Dissenters, Loyola Alliance of Socialists, Sunrise Movement, Students Organize for Syria, Association for Justice in Kashmir and members of the Muslim Student Association.

Organizers from Students for Justice in Palestine led protest chants during the demonstration Feb. 23.

This demonstration is the latest organized by SJP over the last year, following multiple protests that gathered thousands of Chicagoans in the city’s streets downtown in May 2021 and an on-campus protest in November 2021.

“A lot of times at Loyola, we’re so disconnected because we feel like it’s so distant,” Abulaban, 21, said. “That’s the reason SJP is here — we’re trying to bridge the gap.”

Organizers and participants also spent the afternoon gathering signatures in support of BDS at Loyola, reaching 250 signatures within an hour, Abulaban said. Over 600 people had signed the petition by the time of publication, according to Abulaban.

“We came in, we said ‘100 is the goal, guys,’” Abulaban said. “Then we realized this is actually something the students want.”

Leen Yassine | The Phoenix Demonstrators gathered in Damen Student Center and passed out flyers and brochures with more information on the boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The protest takes place as SJP is taking BDS-related legislation to the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) for consideration, Abulaban said.

“SGLC is trying to work the Senate, we have to work the people,” Abulaban said. “We have to inform them of what’s happening. The thing is, at the end of the day it’s our money and we should have a say in where that’s going.”

SGLC President Ella Doyle told The Phoenix she attended SJP’s Anti-War Demonstration as an observer, not as the president of SGLC, and she saw the event as an opportunity to learn.

“I was there to observe, I was there to listen,” Doyle, 21, said. “I was also there as a student — as an Indigenous student learning about land back in other countries, as a student who is studying political science and learning about how conflict happens in other countries. There’s a lot I have to learn as a person, as a student and as a president.”

A BDS piece was passed through SGLC in 2015, Doyle said in an interview with The Phoenix, but it was never taken further to administration for implementation.

A more recent piece of legislation drafted this school year — the Anti-War Initiative (AWI) — encompasses BDS efforts but also addresses broader anti-violence goals, Doyle said. For example, the AWI also focuses on companies that contribute to climate change and environmental destruction.

“This is about more than just one opinion or one take on the military-industrial complex — this is also an issue of sustainability,” Doyle said. “As a university that prides ourselves on our commitment to sustainability, this is something that we should be paying attention to and talking about. So that’s one example of something that’s beyond just BDS that’s still addressed in the AWI.”

Although the legislation is not ready to be shared with the public, an AWI draft will likely be published within the next week, Doyle said.

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