/ Modified apr 29, 2024 5:37 p.m.

Gaza solidarity encampment starts on UA Campus

The encampment, dubbed the "UA Liberated Zone," joins dozens of similar demonstrations on college campuses nationwide.

palestine protest 4-29-1 Pro-Palestinian signs at the Gaza solidarity encampment at the University of Arizona mall on Monday, April 29, 2024.
Hannah Cree

About 60 students and community activists set up a Gaza solidarity encampment Monday on the University of Arizona mall.

Following Friday’s arrest of 69 protestors at Arizona State University, UA protestors said they were expecting more of the same.

“We are prepared for pushback. We know that it will come, we know that these kinds of events and encampments all across the country have gotten severe pushback and we are ready,” said David.

Out of fear for their safety, protestors asked to be identified only by their first name.

At least seven tents had been set up by 10 a.m. At around 10:30, the sprinkler system came on, which demonstrators plugged by placing water jugs over the nozzles.

palestine water jug VIEW LARGER Protestors in the UA Liberated Zone plugged sprinklers with water jugs.
Hannah Cree

Police officers on the mall said they were closely monitoring the situation, and would only make arrests if laws were broken. The UA mall closes at 10 pm, and at that time arrests could begin.

According to a social media statement from the University of Arizona’s Hillel Foundation, a campus organization for Jewish students, university administration has said the encampment “will not remain there overnight.”

Students and community members chanted, sang songs, and gave speeches, repeatedly calling for a free Palestine and for University leadership to cut financial ties with Israel. Past protests have focused on the university’s partnerships with Raytheon, the weapons manufacturer.

Some Jewish people see chants as “from the river to the sea,” as antisemitic, but protestors like David said their demonstration was not meant to send that message.

“This is not about religion. This is not about anti-semitism. This is about standing up for human rights, standing up against genocide, standing up against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” he said.

Faculty Senate Chair for the University of Arizona Dr. Leila Hudson said she supports the students’ right to assemble, but not violence.

“Protesting against the ongoing Israeli slaughter of Palestinians is not antisemitism but constitutionally protected speech. Speaking out against unconditional US support for Israel’s killing of tens of thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children is legitimate and urgent discourse, not intimidation, harassment, or hatred,” she wrote in a statement.

“Naturally, I and all my colleagues unconditionally reject any form of hate, from the frightening rise in antisemitism to normalized Islamophobia and any and all forms of racism and supremacism. Violence - interpersonal, institutional, police or military- has no place on our campuses,” Hudson wrote.

After reports of the UA protest broke, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne released a statement praising University of Arizona President Robert Robbins and President of Arizona State University Michael Crow for “standing up to antisemitism on their campuses.”

“Our DNA is no different from the DNA of Germans in the 1930s, and Nazis started with young thugs attacking people on the street. We need to be vigilant,” he wrote.

By 12 p.m. around a dozen pro-Israel protestors had gathered adjacent to the mall. The Pro-Palestine protesters told the crowd several times not to engage with them.

Vic, who is Jewish, said they feel frustrated that media coverage focuses on both the conflict within the Jewish community and between Israeli and Palestinian Americans.

“I think in a lot of ways, it's a distraction, you know. And my Jewish values teach me that all life is sacred. My Jewish values teach me that my role here on this earth is to fight for the liberation of all peoples,” they said.

Muna Hijazi, a Palestinian American, attended today’s protest and said she felt encouraged by the show of support in Tucson.

“The past six months have been so hard. As a Palestinian,you go to bed every night hoping it'll be better and you wake up every day and it's worse,” she said.

This is a developing story.

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