Editor’s note: Multiple people speaking at the event were concerned about facing harassment if quoted and attributed in this piece, in light of recent events regarding harassment and safety at other college campuses.
The Chronicle is committed to maintaining journalistic standards and credibility in our coverage. After speaking with those featured in the article, The Chronicle has elected to grant anonymity to the people who requested it. The Chronicle has confirmed the accuracy of the quotes published through our own recording of the event.
Over 100 attendees gathered on Abele Quad Wednesday afternoon for a “die-in," calling for action from Congress and Duke administration towards a cease-fire in Gaza, which is currently under siege as part of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Standing in front of a row of teddy bears that each symbolized eight family lines that have perished in the war, speakers gave speeches, listed the names of people who have been killed in Gaza and read poetry in English and Arabic.
Listeners largely wore black and solid colors, lying on their backs and holding signs that included phrases such as “Stop the Siege” and “Justice for Gaza.” A long printed list naming those who have been killed in Gaza cut through the middle of the crowd.
Members of Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine were in attendance.
A Duke student opened the event by thanking participants and stating that over 10,000 Palestinians have died since Oct. 7, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israeli officials said that October's Hamas-led attack in southern Israel killed more than 1,400 people.
“To call for Black liberation means to call for Palestinian liberation, and to call for Palestinian liberation means to call for queer liberation, and to call for queer liberation means to call for liberation for all,” they said. “We are gathered here today in this die-in to honor these lives and call for a cease-fire and an end to occupation, ultimately ending the cycle of violence.”
Participants were then asked to lie on the grass horizontally to “symbolize those that have passed.” A UNC student then began reading from a list of names of the Palestinians who have died in Gaza since Oct. 7, which was published by the Gaza Health Ministry after President Joseph Biden expressed doubts about Palestinian casualty figures.
The reading continued for over 15 minutes, after which the student said they “couldn’t even get through one page.”
Attendees then heard from a reverend in the Durham community, who thanked the organizers for “holding the space in the prayers of the people who have no one to do that for them.”
“Holy One, you hold the souls of these children, you hold the souls of these people, who are going about their daily lives, who are doctors and nurses, who are mothers and fathers and children,” they said. “... We cannot fathom the horror that it is that these people are no longer here with us on this earth.”
A Duke community member spoke next, telling attendees that their “soul is hurting.”
“The life, the honor, the property, the dignity of every human soul is sacred,” they said. “These are sacred souls that God created — the unlimited, massive bombardment of human life in Gaza is remotely distant from human decency.”
They continued by calling the bombardment “extremely ignoble” and “an open contradiction to what God says the human life is.”
The event then transitioned to the reading of various poems in English and Arabic and a concluding speech from the Duke student who had opened the event.
“This event is about remembering that these 10,000 names you just read are not just names. They're not just mere numbers on a TV screen, or necessary sacrifices supposedly done in the name of counterterrorism,” they said.
“These are the names of the billions of Palestinians on this campus and around the diaspora around the world. They are the names of people with family, friends, loved ones, and dreams for the better tomorrow that were brutally taken away from them.”
Holly Keegan contributed reporting.
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Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.