Temple Students for Justice in Palestine organize sit-in at Student Center

SJP organized a sit-in in front of the Howard Gittis Student Center north entrance where attendees held signs, waved flags and chanted for three hours.

Members of SJP demonstrated their support for Palestine with a sit-in protest in the Student Center. | PABLO ROUCO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Students for Justice in Palestine organized a sit-in at the Howard Gittis Student Center Tuesday from noon to 3 p.m. to protest and bring awareness to the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

Participants sat in a line in front of the north entrance of the Student Center waving Palestinian flags and holding signs that read, “Ceasefire now,” and “Why are we afraid to talk about Gaza?” One poster draped from the second-floor balcony read, “Stop the genocide in Gaza.”

“We are sitting in to protest Temple’s complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza that is carried out by the terrorist state of Israel and funded by our tuition and tax dollars,” Temple’s SJP chapter wrote in a message to The Temple News. “We demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire, end to the occupation, protection of Palestinian, Muslims and POC students, and full divestment from the state of Israel and companies that support and fund it.”

Members of SJP surrounded the entrance of the Student Center during their afternoon demonstration. | PABLO ROUCO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The university commented on the Oct. 7 attack from Hamas on Oct. 9 to share counseling resources, then in a later message on Oct. 13 condemned “terrorism, violence [and] hate speech.”

Along with sitting in front of the Student Center’s doors, attendees chanted various phrases and demands, sometimes interrupting themselves to encourage fellow attendees to be louder.

“We will free Palestine! Within our lifetime!” “From Philly to Palestine, occupation is a crime!” and “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” among other chants rung out from the protest, audible from the third floor.

“We’re just continuing not [being] silent,” said Aleem Ahmed, a biology and history major who attended the protest. “That’s the main thing right now. All we can do is not be silent and make sure that our voices are heard. And that people know that the cause of the Palestinians is a cause that is just.”

In between the chanting, SJP members read the names of Palestinian children who have been killed in Gaza, most who were younger than one year old.

“The message that [passersby are] getting is: ‘You shouldn’t be able to ignore genocide,’” said Luciel Duran, an English major who participated in the protest. “You shouldn’t be able to live your life normally without ever considering what is going on in other parts of the world.”

Students hung up a “STOP THE GENOCIDE IN GAZA” sign to be seen at the entrance of the Student Center. | PABLO ROUCO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Some chants specifically targeted the Student Center Starbucks, saying “Starbucks, Starbucks, you can’t hide, you make drinks for genocide!” 

Starbucks faced backlash after suing Starbucks Workers United when the union tweeted in support of Palestine in October.

This is the first time Temple’s SJP chapter has done a sit-in protest and will likely do similar demonstrations in the future, said Besan, a member of SJP who didn’t provide their last name for safety reasons.

“We’re just always here, and as a city, we’re always fighting for a ceasefire,” Besan said. “We’re fighting for the end of the occupation that’s happening in Palestine and we will continue to demonstrate and [show] that we’re not scared. We will continue to protest as long as we need to.”

SJP laid a flag down reading “Why are we Afraid to talk About GAZA” for people to see as they enter the Student Center. | PABLO ROUCO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and kidnapping nearly 240 Israelis. In response, Israel’s military launched an air and artillery strike campaign which has killed more than 26,000 people in the Gaza Strip, The Associated Press reported

The International Court of Justice, a top court of the United Nations, ruled that it was “plausible” that Israel broke The Convention on Genocide, but did not rule on if Israel’s actions were genocide.

There have been multiple demonstrations on Temple’s campus since the beginning of the conflict, including a walkout in solidarity with Palestine, a vigil honoring Palestinian lives and a vigil calling for the return of Israeli hostages.

“All the walkouts, all the lectures that we’re having, it’s to make sure that everyone stays informed,” Ahmed said. “It’s been going on for months now. Oftentimes, the crowds will die out but we’re not going to let that happen. We’re going to keep on doing this every week if we need to, making sure that everyone knows, making sure that everyone shows up.”

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