Sophomore Nader Badwan waves a Palestinian flag as he leads a protest on Nov. 2 
(Abby Campbell / The University News)
Sophomore Nader Badwan waves a Palestinian flag as he leads a protest on Nov. 2 (Abby Campbell / The University News)

Saint Louis University Campus Protests in Solidarity with Palestine

Around 200 people gathered on campus for a protest in support of Palestine Thursday night to “raise awareness for the genocide happening in Palestine,” according to student organizers. 

It drew SLU students and faculty, family members of SLU students and St. Louis community members. Several speakers shared their experiences throughout the march, which began at the clock tower and went through the Busch Student Center to the Senate Chambers.

After seeing other campus protests, Palestinian graduate student Reham Ayesh and juniors Nadia Abusoud and Angam Hamdan said they thought it would be beneficial to organize one at SLU. The protest was not affiliated with any student group.

“We wanted to show SLU that we do not stand for genocide, and we feel that the student body should know the truth. Protests are all about educating,” Abusoud said.

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Abusoud also cited disappointment with SLU’s statement about the Israel-Hamas war and the recent impeachment of former Student Government Association (SGA) president Marquis Govan. 

Hamdan, one of the protest organizers, addressed the crowd at the beginning and expressed frustration about President Fred Pestello’s email regarding the war. 

“I’m sure you all are aware that SLU and many other universities, businesses and celebrities decided to take a neutral stance on the ongoing conflict in Gaza,” Hamdan said. 

“There is nothing neutral about what is happening in Palestine,”

— Angam Hamdan

Several Palestinian students and community members talked about the war’s impact on their community. 

Freshman Rama Lutfeyyah spoke about escalating raids and violence in the West Bank. She said Israeli forces arrested her uncle from his home in Jalazone, alongside hundreds of other Palestinian men from this refugee camp

“They entered his home and destroyed the entire place. He has five kids, and they were all there when it happened… and had to witness their father being taken away from them for absolutely nothing,”  Lutfeyyah said. 

Senior Enkosi Key said Israeli violence in the West Bank points to “an apartheid state inflicting its massive will and power onto a group of people.” 

Joya Uraizee, a professor in the English department, said she found out about the protest through some of her students and came to support them. 

“My research taught me that over the years, a colonial regime does barbaric violence to the colonized and I firmly believe that the Palestinian people are colonized people,” Uraizee said. 

She added that while SLU is committed to social justice, there has not been much discussion about the recent war among faculty. Most engagement she has seen “has come from the students.”

Most of senior Andrew Jelliss’ professors have not brought up the war in class discussions, he said. 

“I wish there was more facilitation of discourse around it. It would be better if we could talk about it a lot more than we do now,”  Jelliss said.

Junior Levi Rosing is the vice president of the Jewish Student Association and a member of Jewish Voices for Peace. He told the crowd that many in the Jewish community across the U.S. are allies to the fight for a ceasefire and said he was proud of Jewish-led protests in New York and Washington.

“Don’t let nobody ever tell you that this movement is anti-semetic. This movement is about liberating Palestinian from the genocidal regime of Israel,”

— Levi Rosing


Junior Levi Rosing speaks to a protesters in the Senate Chambers on Nov. 2. (Abby Campbell / The University News)

Former SGA president Marquis Govan addressed the crowd, making a nod to his recent impeachment.

“This issue is not about religion. It is an issue of humanity,” Govan said. “At this Catholic university we are called to value the human dignity of all people. That means Palestinians too.”

Shortly after Govan spoke, the crowd marched down Laclede Ave. and across Grand Blvd. into the Busch Student Center (BSC). The crowd yelled several chants as they marched, such as “free, free Palestine” and “brick by brick, wall by wall, apartheid has got to fall.”

In the BSC, the crowd crammed into BSC 256, the Senate chambers. This time, some young children led a “free, free Palestine” chant. There, Govan and a few others spoke again. 

“We say unapologetically that this may be the hall of power, but this is people power,” Govan said, referring to the Senate Chambers. “We say unapologetically that we will not be silenced as genocide takes place and that anyone who seeks to punish people who speak out about it, we will show up.” 

According to the Internal Affairs Committee, the investigation and subsequent impeachment vote stemmed from Govan’s apparent abuse of power in his role as president, though some students dispute this reasoning. SGA maintains that the vote was not related to his political opinion. 

While the protest was in the Senate chambers, several Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers and Ben Perlman, SLU’s assistant vice president for Student Engagement, surveyed the scene in the hallway. Eventually, the director of DPS, Melinda Heikkinen, walked into the room and said that they needed to leave.

The protest returned to the Clock Tower, where chants continued and a few others spoke to close the night.

As a Palestinian in the U.S., social work student Linda Safi said protesting is the least she can do. “To spread awareness and speak out, that’s all they’re asking from us,” Safi said.

Rahmat Adekunle, freshmen, said she hopes her peers reflect on the 75 year history of the conflict. 

“I couldn’t sit in my dorm with running water, with food, with a comfy bed at night knowing that millions of people don’t have that,” Adekunle said. “We have to use our voices.” 

Some students like junior Lyla Perrelli said they are trying to learn more about the war, but felt it was important to show up in support of Palestinians. 

Speakers offered several resources to advocate for Palestine including urging elected officials to call for a ceasefire. A student told his peers to pray to Gaza, while others talked about checking in on those most impacted.

Most of them reiterated keeping the conversation going in classes, among peers and with family.

“Palestinians are actively undergoing a genocide. It is not a war. So when celebrities and large corporations and our own universities think that they’re doing the right thing by taking a neutral stance, they’re doing so much more harm than good,” Hamdan said.

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