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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA shuts down access to Mall after pro-Palestinian protests

Noor Haghighi
Harlow Parkin leads a chant on the mall on April 29. The protesters called for an end to U.S. and local aid to Israel.

A group of students, faculty and staff gathered on the University of Arizona Mall with tents, signs and chants, all in support of Palestine and the freedom of the Palestinian people the morning of Monday, April 29. This gathering, which coincided with the school of engineering’s design day, intended to call out the university’s involvement in the “genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” according to River, the group’s media spokesperson.

On Monday evening, the university warned that anyone gathered on the Mall past 10:30 p.m. would be subject to arrest. The group dispersed prior to this time, and the university constructed a barricade surrounding the Mall, with “no trespassing” signs put up.  

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” was the recurring chant of the gathered group.

Its signs stated “Raytheon arms the genocide,” “Tucson residents against genocide economy,” “Raytheon blood is on your hands” and many more similar sentiments.

According to River, the media spokesperson for the gathering who chose to keep his last name anonymous, Monday was design day for the school of engineering. Companies such as Raytheon, Elbit Systems, Universal Avionics and Caterpillar Inc were all on campus. 

“Every single one of those companies are complicit in the genocide in Palestine. The University of Arizona is hosting these people and directly funding these companies that are complicit and therefore the university is complicit in the genocide,” River said. 

The date chosen for the protest was intentional. It was not a coincidence that the protestors tents and signs were set up next to the engineering tents. 

Raytheon is the second largest weapons manufacturer in the world and, according to Harlow Parkin, a UA freshman who was at the gathering, the company has notably contributed a lot to the missiles that are being used to bomb Gaza

“We’re out here because the Tucson community is appalled with the response that the city has had and students [organized under the moniker Students Against Apartheid] are also appalled at the university’s approach to relations with Israel and relations with companies who do business in Israel,” Parkin said. 

According to Parkin, student movements such as this one have been successful in gaining social change in the past and this group is attempting to emulate that again. 

He gave the example of students against the apartheid in the 1980s, specifically targeting South Africa. Upset by the lack of economic sanctions being passed by the federal government, galvanized student movements were able to force congressional action to override Ronald Reagan’s veto of congress’s economic sanctions bill and impose economic sanctions on South Africa.

“Right now, this is pretty grassroots but I believe in the sanctity of the movement. I believe in defending Palestinian rights and I believe in Palestinian liberation. This is how we get more momentum. As you’ve seen, there’s a lot of student support across the nation for Palestinian liberation,” Parkin said.

However, students were not the only ones at this gathering who shared this opinion. 

“Throughout history, when students start protesting on something, they are always ahead of the game,” said Noor Masri, a local Tucson resident with dual citizenship in Palestine. 

“If politicians are interested in seeing how they can get the young vote, this is where they need to look. It’s clear that young people and people of conscience stand with Palestine and I think it’s important for students to show that in any way that they can,” Masri said.

“Personally, I’m here to support the students and to hold the space with them as long as possible,” said Gabb Schivone, a UA teaching fellow. “The longer we hold it, the more media attention we get and the more of a statement we can make that sends Tucson and Arizona to the front.”

As the day went on, this group continued to stay on the Mall, garnering attention from anyone who passed by.

“The fellow students are also our intended audience. We want to get this word out. Students are at the lead of these kinds of movements and they always have been in history,” River said. 

Around 4:30 p.m., one of the organizers of the gathering brought out a co-founder of the program, to give a speech to those he had gathered and anyone passing by. His name was not given.

“We salute you, our students. Here and at ASU and everywhere in this country on all campuses, because you decided to stand up and be counted and do what’s required of you. Students are not only to look at books or on computer screens. This is absolutely the best time of your life and you should use it wisely. You should do it responsibly. You should use it to express your solidarity with the Palestinian people and all people everywhere who are fighting for freedom,” the organizer said.

This gathering continued late into the day, when the crowd began to wonder about the intended outcome. 

As the sun began to set, the University of Arizona Police Department and campus security put out signs saying that “University policy states non-academic activity on the Mall must conclude by 10:30 p.m. Those that do not disperse will be part of an unlawful assembly and subject to arrest for trespassing.”

Signage posted on the University of Arizona campus on the evening of Monday, April 29, announced that anyone gathered after 10:30 p.m. for “non-academic activities” would be subject to arrest. This declaration was in response to the pro-Palestinian protests and encampments on the Mall.

Around 9:30 p.m., the group voted to disperse instead of staying and risking arrest.

The UA communications department, via Mitch Zak, released a statement saying, “The University of Arizona demonstrated its commitment to respecting and protecting the free speech rights of our students and the community in accordance with established campus use policies. Tonight illustrated the value of community dialogue between organizers, campus leaders, and public safety.”

Late Monday night, the section of the Mall where protestors had been, was blocked off with fences and signs that said, “no trespassing.”

According to a tweet from Ellie Wolfe at the Arizona Daily Star, the Mall will be closed until commencement. Anyone on the Mall will be arrested for trespassing.

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