Loyola Students Walk Out of Class to Protest for Palestinian Freedom

Various student organizations protested through a walkout about freedom of Palestine from Israeli occupation.

Loyola students from the Coalition for Solidarity and Justice — composed of Students for Justice in Palestine, the Black Cultural Center and Loyola Alliance for Socialists — organized a walkout to the Damen atrium at 1 p.m. Oct. 25. The walkout aimed to encourage students to protest for the freedom of Palestine from Israeli occupation, according to speeches from protest leaders. 

The protest began in the Damen Student Center. Participants walked south of the Loyola Red Line stop down North Sheridan Road, continuing east before walking past Mundelein Center in front of the Loyola Information Commons, concluding in the West Quad. The event lasted about an hour and a half.

After protesters gathered in Damen, speeches were given by members of the coalition and protest leaders. Following the speeches, chants were shouted by protest leaders before they led the group around the perimeter of campus.

Student protesters chanted, “Free, free Palestine,” among other chants, as they walked and cars on North and West Sheridan Road honked. 

Protesters also chanted, “LUC you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” in reference to the walkout’s call for Loyola’s divestment in war weapon manufacturing companies.

A large poster that read, “War is Death, Loyola divest,” was draped over the balcony of the second floor of Damen next to a Palestine flag.

The Loyola walkout was part of a national movement by National SJP and Dissenters, who invited campuses across the United States to protest against their universities’ investment in war and the country’s decision to send aid to Israel. The movement was spread through fliers and Instagram posts containing details of the protest.

As part of the goal of the walkout, protesters demanded Loyola divest from war manufacturers like Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Gruman. Participants also called for the end of Israel’s siege on Gaza and U.S. funding for Israel, according to flyers given out by the coalition.

Aisha Asad, a fourth-year at Loyola and SJP vice president, told The Phoenix she wouldn’t be at Loyola if not for the expulsion of herself and her family from Palestine. She said she wants to advocate for Palestinians’ freedom from Israeli occupation because of its impact in her life.

“This didn’t just start a week ago, or a week or two ago,” Asad said. “It’s been ongoing for the past 75 years.”

Asad said the main emotion she has felt recently is grief, and she has spent a lot of time mourning Palestinian lives throughout her life.

Prior to leaving Damen, protest leaders wearing yellow traffic vests identified themselves as safety coordinators and encouraged protestors to find them if any incident occurred at the protests. Protest leaders also passed out buttons with the Palestinian flag on them to participants. 

Protesters held posters showing their hopes for change as they walked, some of which included, “Loyola Stop Funding Genocide,” “End the Siege” and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free.” 

Signs also criticized President Joe Biden and his recent decision to send money to Israeli war efforts, the Associated Press reported. One sign called the Israeli-Gaza conflict “another state sponsored genocide.”

“We pay $60k to help Israel ethnically cleanse Palestinians?!” a poster read. “STOP ignoring us!! STOP funding death!!” 

Patrick Atkinson, a fourth-year at Loyola and member of LUC Dissenters, said the walkout was initiated because social justice groups on campus came together and decided Loyola’s response to the most recent conflict in Gaza wasn’t sufficient. He said the group wanted to show their solidarity with Palestinians on campus and throughout the world.

“We’re here to show that students across the spectrum — politically, ethnically, culturally — are here to stand in solidarity with Palestinians,” Atkinson said. 

Atkinson said the response by university and political leaders wasn’t consistent with the Coalition for Solidarity and Justice’s sentiment which was to free Palestine from occupation and cease fire on Gaza. 

Loyola spokesperson Matt McDermott wrote in an email to the Phoenix the university encourages students to express their personal opinions and participate in debates and demonstrations because it strengthens education and understanding.

“We support students who express their views through respectful and responsible means, as it is a hallmark of the intellectual vitality and social awareness of our student body,” McDermott wrote.

McDermott said the university follows the Sustainable Investment Policy, which contains guidelines for Loyola to invest without contributing to companies primarily responsible for the extraction of fossil fuels.

“Loyola has already adopted and published the Sustainable Investment Policy, which considers the University’s commitment to sustainability, and the aspiration to contribute to a more just, humane, and sustainable world in our investment policy and practices,” McDermott wrote. “As such, Loyola will not adopt other calls for divestment.”

Claire Mendes, a third-year Loyola student and member of LUC Dissenters, said the goal of the protest was to fight for the freedom of Palestine since Palestinian people haven’t had freedom in a long time. She said the recent conflict doesn’t change the sentiment that Palestinians deserve freedom. 

“I just feel empowered to do more to help out, because I feel like it’s draining for me to see even though it doesn’t directly affect me,” Mendes said.

Rosalie Padilla-Munoz, a first-year at Loyola and participant in the protest, said they choose to walk out of class because the trauma Palestinians have experienced angers them. 

Outside de Nobili Hall, there was a person holding an Israeli flag, and a participant of the protest attempted to take the flag out of his hands, resulting in a physical altercation. 

Campus Safety didn’t respond to The Phoenix’s request for a comment on the incident. 

When protesters reached the West Quad, protest leaders called for a minute of silence and asked each participant to take the time to remember the lives lost over the 75 years of Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Following the minute of silence, the protest leaders began one final chant of, “I believe that we will win,” before the protest concluded.

Featured Image by: Holden Green / The Phoenix

Julia Pentasuglio

Julia Pentasuglio