By Arlenis Marmolejos
Students chanted in support of Palestine near the clocktower, outside the Student Services building (Photo by Arlenis Marmolejos)
On Oct. 25, about 100 students gathered by the clocktower, joining the nationwide student walkout, to advocate for Palestinian liberation.
A group of students, who prefer to remain nameless out of concern for their safety have demonstrated their commitment to raising awareness for Palestinians by launching the Instagram account, @rtcpurch. The Raise the Consciousness (RTC) at Purchase social media platform joined the Palestinian Youth Movement to call for a campus-wide walkout and organize a rally where some voiced their discontent regarding the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflicts and the handling of the crisis by the Purchase administration.
“We need to march, and we need to fight like hell!” shouted Ian Justino, a senior film major and speaker at the rally. He added, “Until freedom is a reality, there can be no peace, because occupation is violence and there will be no peace on stolen land!”
Students and faculty gathered in a circle around the clocktower for the candlelight peace vigil (Photo by Arlenis Marmolejos)
On the day preceding the rally, Oct. 24, the Purchase Student Government Association (PSGA) and the Multicultural Center held a non-partisan candlelight peace vigil to honor the innocent lives lost among the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The Purchase College President, Dr. Milagros Peña, participated and expressed her inspiration at the unity demonstrated during the vigil, where students and faculty joined together promoting peace over anger and hatred. “We give each other hope as witnesses of hate and an affirmation for one another, not just here at Purchase College, but with and for those beyond our campus,” Peña said.
While present at the peace vigil, Justino shared his appreciation for having the opportunity to collectively mourn the loss of life.
He referenced a quote from civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr., who distinguished two forms of peace: negative peace, characterized by the absence of tension, and positive peace, the presence of justice. “We should all be mindful of what kind of peace we are calling for,” Justino said.
During the rally, Edison Diaz, a sophomore acting major, presented the protest’s community agreements, stressing that the “safety of the Purchase community is top priority” and that the demonstration does not endorse violence or actions that may harm anyone or necessitate New York State University Police (UPD) involvement.
In a statement condemning anti-Semitism, posted by the Purchase RTC Instagram account, they offered a “warm invitation” to the Jewish community to join the rally. “We will always loudly and
Purchase RTC Palestine rally demands
(Image via @rtcpurch on Instagram)
publicly advocate for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, but we would like to do so while respecting the safety needs of all students of all faiths and backgrounds on campus.”
The rally protestors supplied water bottles, earplugs, distributed flyers, and formed a student de-escalation team to ensure a peaceful demonstration. “I’m always happy when students bring structure to their events,” said Dayton Tucker, the UPD chief, who was at the event.
Peña sent a campus-wide email on Oct. 10 stating, “New York stands with the people of Israel and our Jewish community on and off campus as the tragedy continues to unfold,” following the news released by the Israeli military that more than 1,400 people were killed by Hamas militants in the rampage through Israeli towns and around 240 hostages were taken since Oct. 7.
Student protestors chanted their dissent over what they say was the administration’s failure to recognize and condemn Israel’s treatment of Palestinians saying, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. Occupation is a crime from New York to Palestine. Hey Milly, you can’t hide, you’re endorsing genocide!”
“What Zionists along with Milagros and SUNY want to do is paint an incomplete picture where Israel’s actions are justified and convince us that this is a conflict only between Arab Muslims and Jews, completely erasing Palestinian Christians, Black Palestinians, and Palestinian Jews who are facing the horrors of the occupation firsthand,” said Edison Diaz.
CJ Delarosa, a sophomore undeclared major, addressed the issue of students hesitating to voice their support for Palestinian liberation on campus. “Fear might consume your entire soul, might hinder your passion and drive. Fight against it, fight through it – that is bravery, that is resilience, that is true strength,” he said.
“We ask of SUNY now to cut their ties with [Israel], and take a moment to think wide open. This isn’t just land that was stolen because genocide doesn’t mean homeless, genocide means complete obliteration, it means erasing a nation,” said a senior literature major, Angelica Diaz, when performing an original poem.
When questioned about the criticisms regarding her original statement, Peña declined to elaborate further.
Crowd of student protestors at the Palestine rally in front of the Student Services building
(Photo by Arlenis Marmolejos)
“I want to make it very, very clear that in no time in my life, past or present, has a Palestinian, Arab, or a Muslim made me feel unsafe as a Jewish woman,” said Sadie Lopez-Reiss, a junior political science major. She added, “They are not my enemy, never have been, and no matter what Israeli propaganda will tell you, they are not yours!”
Lopez-Reiss acknowledged her “inherent privilege” at the rally, recognizing herself as an American living far from a war zone and as a Jewish person who could potentially “visit Palestine on a so-called birthright trip – without fearing for [her] life.”
On Oct. 18, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, announced the allocation of $100 million in aid for the Palestinian people of Gaza. However, Justino stated “this aid is nothing but a petty insult in the face of the $10 billion dollars in military aid [Biden] has given to the Israeli military.
“It is our government that bankrolls this occupation and no matter how much that government tries to keep us down, we know that the power belongs with us, with the people!” said Justino.
Neptune Smith, a sophomore literature major, described the rally as “a breath of fresh air” in a time where voices are being silenced, and people are reluctant to address a “literal genocide.”
Isabella Araya, a junior communications major, expressed disappointment in Purchase’s response to global events, saying that it does not reflect the majority of the student population’s views.
“The student organizers and creatives are really holding down the integrity of true activism,” Araya said.