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‘Free Palestine, Divest FAU’: Students hold protest and vigil for Palestine

Editors Note: This story has been updated on May 16 to correct the spelling of Ximena Dipietro’s name and to provide an additional quote from SSI representatives. Solidarity, FAU’s socialist student organization, held a “Vigil for Palestine” Wednesday in support of Palestinians and to shed light on police brutality amidst recent college campus protests across...

Editors Note: This story has been updated on May 16 to correct the spelling of Ximena Dipietro’s name and to provide an additional quote from SSI representatives.

Solidarity, FAU’s socialist student organization, held a “Vigil for Palestine” Wednesday in support of Palestinians and to shed light on police brutality amidst recent college campus protests across the United States.

Around 20 people gathered in front of FAU’s administration building at 10:30 a.m. and stayed until approximately 2 p.m. Among them was sociology professor Phillip Hough, who said he came to observe and express his solidarity for Palestine along with students.

“In general, Palestinian students and Palestinian people have not had the same box or the same opportunity to voice their humanity as others do, who are impacted by this horrible politics of violence, so I do think we need to be particularly sensitive to Palestinian people and their plight,” Hough said.

According to Solidarity’s Instagram post advertising today’s event, the organization aimed to express their support for Palestinians. Solidarity representatives believe that in the institution’s support of Israel, FAU has been complicit in what they view as “genocide” throughout the region in recent months. This is the second protest Solidarity has held in support of Palestine, the first being on Oct. 11 which resulted in multiple arrests.

“We, as students at Florida Atlantic University, demand immediate and drastic change to the university administration and its relationship to the Israeli state,” read the “Free Palestine, Divest FAU” flyers that members passed out at the event. “We also demand that FAU publishes their investment records for transparency and accountability… Finally, we demand that FAU detracts its previous statements supporting Israel and issue a call for a ceasefire.”

An armored vehicle from the Delray Beach PD’s Special Operations unit. (Michael Cook)

Numerous law enforcement agencies were on the protest scene, with officers from the Boca Raton PD, Delray Beach PD and approximately eight vehicles from the Florida Highway Patrol. In addition, the FAUPD positioned their incident command unit vehicle near the administration building.

A small group of members from FAU’s student organization Students Supporting Israel (SSI) were present at the protest. However, they clarified that their attendance was only to represent Israel and not to engage in counter-protests against pro-Palestinian groups.

Ellie Raab, president of SSI and Zoe Dahan, director of strategy and marketing at SSI, provided insights into SSI’s motivations for participating and their encounters with law enforcement. 

“We’ve seen numerous college campuses around the country flood with antisemitism and physical violence against Jewish students – SSI’s goal was to ensure that the rapid antisemitism occurring on college campuses around the country doesn’t spread to FAU,” they said in an email statement on May 16. “We are extremely grateful for the FAUPD’s presence on the scene as they wanted to make sure it was a peaceful event that didn’t escalate into a violent and chaotic protest.”

 

FAUPD responded to a disturbance at the protest, and the student complied. (Michael Cook)

Solidarity protestor Ximena Dipietro, having visited Israel firsthand, firmly believes that the Israeli state is oppressing the Palestinian people. She was open to discussing topics with individuals who support Israel. 

“I am thankful that those who counter-protested remained peaceful and largely non-combative,” Dipietro said. “But throughout the protest, I spoke to several people who support Israel, which often ended in frustration due to competing historical narratives about the conflict.”

A counter-protester, Damon Rosen attended to observe the local version of protests occurring nationwide on college campuses. 

“[The protest] was severely underwhelming and I expected more than this,” said Rosen, who later argued with one of the Solidarity protesters. “I disagree completely. Their flyer is misleading and libelous against the Jewish state. If you just look at their flyers, they’re saying that Palestine is all of Israel.”

Raymond Adderly, the student governor for FAU’s Boca Raton campus, was pleased to see everyone express their opinion without violence at the protest.

“Frankly, I am happy to see that both sides have been able to meet to express their opinions and beliefs on this subject in a peaceful way that does continue to maintain free speech, unlike other universities across the nation,” Adderly said.

Michael Cook is the News Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email cookm2021@fau.edu.  

Jason Steinfeld is a Staff Writer for University Press. For more information about this article or others, you can reach him via Instagram @jasonsteinfeld221 or email him at jsteinfeld2020@fau.edu.

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