On Wednesday, numerous students gathered at the University of Virginia to participate in a demonstration organized by Students for Justice in Palestine. The event, part of a national walkout, called on the university administration to critique and reconsider financial support related to Israel’s defense measures.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, the walkout was associated with a broader movement by Students for Justice in Palestine. Their primary objective was to call for an end to the “U.S.-backed siege on Gaza” and the halt of “U.S. military funding and arms to Israel.” It should be noted that the student group had previously supported the events of October 7, in which a large number of Israeli civilians lost their lives.
At the University of Virginia, demonstrators assembled on the Lawn near the Rotunda, displaying banners with messages such as “Free Palestine” and “End Apartheid.” The group also vocalized chants that some believe challenge the existence of Israel. To maintain privacy, many attendees chose to wear masks.
Several university groups, including the Queer Student Union, Muslim Students Association, and Young Democratic Socialists of America, co-sponsored the event. Distributed flyers promoting the event appealed to the university to recognize the “ongoing situation” in Israel and reevaluate their financial relationships with certain arms manufacturers.
This demonstration at the University of Virginia is one of many across U.S. college campuses following the events of October 7, which resulted in significant casualties, primarily civilians, in Israel. These incidents escalated tensions, prompting Israel to take military action.
In light of these events, Students for Justice in Palestine at UVA lauded the actions in Gaza. In response to the campus events and sentiments, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares conveyed his concerns about certain student groups’ rhetoric regarding the incidents in Israel in a formal letter to public universities in the state.
Based on historical context, the UVA students pointed out that the recent uprising was not without reason or background, as some have suggested. They emphasized that it resulted from prolonged episodes of large-scale fatalities, forced displacements, and subjugation by Israel. “The persistent adversities under Israeli rule have put many Palestinians in a position where they feel they either suffer in silence or voice their resistance vocally.”
While the student group expressed sorrow over the loss of lives, they also underscored their belief in the rights of people under colonization to stand against the occupation of their territories in ways they find fitting.