Editor’s note: Multiple students speaking at the event were concerned about facing harassment if quoted and attributed in this piece, in light of recent events regarding harassment and student safety at other college campuses.
The Chronicle is committed to maintaining journalistic standards and credibility in our coverage. After speaking with the students featured in the article, The Chronicle has elected to grant anonymity to the students who requested it. The Chronicle has confirmed the accuracy of the quotes published through our own recording of the event.
Over 250 people gathered on Abele Quad Wednesday afternoon to participate in a student walkout calling for a cease-fire to the Israel-Hamas war, as part of a larger nationwide movement involving 100 campuses across the country.
Organizers handed flyers to attendees and passersby that explained the history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and accused the Israeli government of “the crime of apartheid.”
As people gathered in front of the James B. Duke statue, organizers distributed signs to attendees, which included phrases such as “Ceasefire Now!,” “End the Occupation” and “Stop Bombing Children.”
At the end of the event, the crowd circled Abele Quad, raising their signs and chanting “Free, free Palestine,” “Cease-fire now” and “Resistance is justified when people are occupied.”
As of Wednesday evening, Israeli retaliatory strikes have killed over 6,500 people in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israeli officials reported Thursday that the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in southern Israel killed more than 1,400 people.
A large poster with the Gaza death toll was fastened to a tree on Abele Quad, which read that over 2,000 of the deceased were children.
A Duke undergraduate opened the event by thanking the participants for joining “in solidarity despite the fear that [they] may have.”
“We’re here to call for institutions of higher education to listen to us, to hear our concerns, to protect us,” they said.
The undergraduate said that in recent weeks, pro-Palestine students have been doxxed, a man fired a shot near a pro-Palestinian rally in Chicago and a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was stabbed in an Islamophobic attack tied to the developing conflict.
The undergraduate also said that a pro-Palestine mural on the East Campus bridge was repeatedly graffitied with the word “Hamas,” forcing students to repaint the original mural three times. They described being “borderline threatened” by individuals at Duke and spat at, saying that “students are too afraid to even walk alone on campus.”
“What has Duke done in response? Send redundant emails with the same resources that do nothing to prevent this hurtful rhetoric that puts our students at risk,” they said. “They refuse to hold anyone accountable for the hate and violence that they are inciting on campus.”
A member of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine spoke next, reading a statement from another member who could not attend the rally. The statement accused UNC for doing “precisely nothing” to protect student activists “amidst relentless harassment, insults, hate speech, doxxing and smear campaigns.”
“What we are witnessing at UNC and indeed most universities is a complete abdication of responsibilities and morals,” they said. “While a professor from UNC’s religious studies department gets to scream in the faces of students peacefully protesting, aggressively getting in their faces and bodily intimidating them, the university remains silent.”
Another member of the UNC chapter of SJP proceeded to read a statement from another member who could not make it to the event. The statement criticized UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz’s Oct. 13 statement for not mentioning the word Palestine, believing that it “ignore[d] the pain and suffering of our Palestinian students.”
In a final speech to the crowd, a Duke graduate student referenced a poem by Audre Lorde alluding to the 1973 shooting of 10-year-old Clifford Glover by a policeman in Queens and related the poem to Palestinian children who are being “robbed of their childhood.”
The graduate student continued by describing how Palestinians lacked “basic access to food, water [and] electricity,” adding that Palestinian activists were being “spit on, verbally harassed, digitally harassed and being called terrorists repeatedly.”
The graduate student then mentioned their fear of being doxxed and harassed, but deciding to take the risk to stand in solidarity.
“We are asking to risk the present for an affirmation for a future of a free Palestine, one rid of occupation, one with cease-fire [in Gaza], one where Palestinian children can survive, thrive and exist in love and prosperity,” they said.
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Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.