UPDATE at 8:20 p.m. on Dec. 6.
Each day, the Bell Tower rings at the top of each hour. At 4 p.m. on Thursday, its sound nearly drowned out yelling protesters.
“Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes,” pro-Palestine protesters chanted between the bells.
“Am Yisrael Chai,” — which roughly translates to “the people of Israel live” in Hebrew — a small group of pro-Israel protesters responded.
Nearly 50 protesters, led by the Temple Students for Justice in Palestine, gathered on Main Campus in support of professor Marc Lamont Hill. He is enthralled in a national controversy over his comments at the United Nations on Nov. 29, where he said he wants a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
Shortly after, CNN fired Hill from his commentator position and Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor asked the university’s lawyers to look into ways to reprimand him. Temple is currently investigating if it will take action against Hill.
The protest was organized by SJP, and endorsed by more than a dozen student and city activist organizations, including the Black Student Union, the Temple University South Asian Students Society, the Stadium Stompers and the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative.
A counter-protest by the Greater Philadelphia Zionist Organization of America, calling for Hill to be fired, also took place with about 20 attendees.
Jasper Saah, the secretary for SJP, said the demonstration was to stand in support for Hill.
“Marc has been a tireless advocate for Palestine and against gentrification,” Saah said.
Hill briefly attended the protest. He declined several requests to speak to reporters.
Around 4 p.m., SJP and ZOA both began protesting at the Bell Tower. SJP began to lead chants that prompted counter-protesters, a few feet away from them on Polett Walk near 12th Street, to hold their signs up and yell “down with Hamas!” Hamas is an Islamic extremist and Palestinian nationalist organization.
After about 20 minutes at the Bell Tower, SJP marched toward Sullivan Hall, where University President Richard Englert’s office is located. ZOA disbanded their protest at the Bell Tower shortly after the march began.
SJP ended its demonstration at Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Broad Street around 5:30 p.m.
Temple Police and Philadelphia Police provided extra police resources for both protests on Thursday, said Charlie Leone, the executive director of Campus Safety Services.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a national Jewish organization that aims to end the “Israeli occupation of the West Bank,” told the crowd that the group speaks for Jewish people who oppose injustices toward Palestinian people. A spokesperson for the group called Hill’s speech an “eloquent defense of equality and dignity for all people.”
Gabriel Bryant, a community activist who visited Palestine with Hill, spoke at the protest. In an interview with The Temple News, he said the two drew parallels between Israel’s treatment of Palestine and Temple’s treatment of the North Philadelphia community while abroad.
Betsey Piette, 69, of Upper Darby, said she attends SJP events regularly. She came out Thursday to show her support of Hill and the people living in Palestinian territories, she said.
“I very much see the Palestinian struggle as a struggle around indigenous rights of Palestinians, so I relate to it very much on that core basis,” Piette said.
David Schatz attended the counter-protest to oppose SJP. The junior criminal justice major said he believes Hill should be fired because he promotes an ideology of hatred and intolerance toward Jewish people.
“If he renounced [his views of Israel] and said, ‘This is not really how I think, this is not true,’ then I think that would be more acceptable [for Hill] as a member of Temple’s faculty,” Schatz said.
Nick Carmack, an at-large representative in Temple Student Government’s Parliament, is one of Hill’s students. He said he supports his professor.
“It’s a slippery slope if they start firing instructors for things they say off campus, just because somebody is offended by it,” Carmack said.
Sophomore political science major Alexander Rappaport came to the counter-protest to condemn Hill’s statements.
“Temple University and the Jewish students and faculty and people all around the university are not just going to stand by while a professor says an anti-Semitic statement and other people are supporting anti-Semitism, especially on the fifth night of Hanukkah,” Rappaport said. “It’s completely unacceptable and we’re here to show our support for Israel and show that anti-Semitism is not going to be tolerated on campus.”
Academic freedom and ethics in journalism were the reasons journalism professor Linn Washington stopped by the protest while walking through campus.
“I appreciate the fact that people are raising their voices,” he added.
Faculty Senate, in an email to faculty obtained by The Temple News, wrote on Wednesday they support Hill’s academic freedom, free speech and his right to tenure.
More than 30 professors signed a letter of no-confidence against O’Connor on Wednesday criticizing the chairman for what they said was a lack of support of Hill’s academic freedom.
Hal Conte and Kelly Brennan contributed reporting.