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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV’s YDSA hosts rally in support of Palestinians

GVL / Elizabeth Schanz

Grand Valley State University’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) organized and held a rally for Palestine on Nov. 3. Titled “End the siege on Gaza,” and “Demand an end to genocide,” the rally started in front of the Cook Carillon Tower on the GVSU Allendale Campus and finished with a march through campus. 

Organizers said the rally on GVSU’s campus aimed to draw attention to the military action and humanitarian crisis taking place in Gaza. 

Israel declared war on Hamas, a militant, terrorist group, on Oct. 8 following Hamas’ killing of 1,400 people and taking about 240 others hostages in a cross-border attack on Oct. 7. Israeli military action in Gaza has escalated since. Now, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, as of Nov. 4, 9,448 people are dead and as of Nov. 2, the Associated Press reported 40% of the deceased are children. This has led many people in the U.S. and abroad to call for a ceasefire and advocate for further action to support Palestinians currently and on a long-term basis. 

At the rally, the protesters chanted slogans that expressed their anger at politicians and the Biden administration for passing a $14.5 billion military aid package to Israel. 

“Biden, Biden, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” they declared.  Another chant asked Israeli Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu “How many kids have you killed today?” Other chants included “By the millions, by the billions, we are all Palestinians,” “Ethnic cleansing is a crime,” “Fight for our liberation, down with the occupation,” and “Resistance is justified when people are occupied.” 

GVL / Elizabeth Schanz

GVSU Junior Minna Abdel-Moemen led many of the chants at the rally. Abdel-Moemen is not a part of YDSA but wanted to come out and show her support for the message of the rally regardless. 

“I haven’t heard many people speaking about it, kind of like what I did with what happened with Ukraine and Russia,” Abdel-Moemen said. “So we wanted to bring awareness to the students about the issue, maybe cause them to think like, ‘Oh, what is that?’ and then they’ll read about it, you know, kind of spark an interest to learn more about the topic.” 

Although Abdel-Moemen is Arab, she feels the issue is not isolated to a certain nationality or ethnicity. She said all people are personally affected and connected to what is happening in Gaza. 

“Any human being should see what’s going on and see that humans are dying,” Abdel-Moemen said. “That should be enough for people to realize and feel emotionally connected.” 

Although this rally was the first pro-Palestine rally held on GVSU’s campus following the official declaration of war, many protests for Palestine or Israel have taken place across hundreds of colleges and universities in the U.S. Similarly, other protests, both in support of Israel and Palestine took place in Grand Rapids toward the beginning of October. 

YDSA President and third-year student at GVSU Jessica Koerkel said YDSA decided to hold the protest as a way to “mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.” She said the rally was a way to have a Palestinian movement on campus and to voice student perspectives.   

GVL / Elizabeth Schanz

“We came here to show our solidarity with Palestinians, to show that what’s happening isn’t right,” Koerkel said. “It’s (the conflict is) still ongoing, and to say that we don’t want our money to be spent funding that (Israeli military) and that we want change to happen.” 

Koerkel invited Grand Rapids groups Palestine Solidarity Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression to take part in the rally. Additionally, Owen Frassetto, a sophomore at GVSU and YDSA Vice President, spoke at the campus rally.  

“We must advocate for a single state in Palestine as well as the lands which are currently known as Israel,” Frassetto said. “We must advocate for a united Palestine where all of its citizens, Palestinian, Jewish, Christian, so on, they (can) all live in equality.” 

No counter-protest was formed other than one GVSU student, sophomore Ryan Flynn, who sat opposite the rally with an Israeli flag taped onto the back of his computer. Flynn said he was not there to argue with the rally, but instead to condemn the actions of Hamas and defend Israel’s existence. 

“We will continue to protest, quietly, peacefully, respectfully until every one of our hostages are returned,” Flynn said. “I don’t want to see or be subjected to the death of innocent Palestinians either. Genocide shouldn’t go either way. I stand for the people of both sides.”

GVL / Elizabeth Schanz

Flynn said he sat in support of his “Jewish brothers” and community. 

“The way I see it, if maybe just one Jewish kid is scared of what they’re seeing and they see me out here, see my star (on the Israeli flag), or my necklace (of the star of David) and they feel a little safer, then it’s all worth it,” Flynn said. 

Flynn and the protestors did not interact throughout the demonstration. The rally was peaceful, leading to discussions within the community about what was happening politically and emotionally abroad and in the U.S. 

One person rode by the protest on a skateboard and said “F*ck Israelis, f*ck the Jews…. Well, not all the Jews, but like some of them.” The student was not affiliated with the rally directly, but the statement echoes Flynn’s concerns regarding antisemitism rising from the conflict. 

Following the events of Oct. 7, antisemitism and Islamophobia are on the rise. Reuters reported data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) “showed a 388% rise in antisemitic incidents in the U.S.” from Oct. 7 to Oct. 23 compared to last year. Additionally, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) “received 774 complaints of incidents motivated by Islamophobia and bias against Palestinians and Arabs” from Oct. 7 to Oct. 24. 

As the war continues in Israel and Gaza, many people are advocating for individuals to stay up to date on the current events. 

Abdel-Moemen said the issue in Israel in Gaza “doesn’t just go back to October 7” and that Palestinians have faced “75 years of occupation.” She wants people to continue to read the long history of the issue and where the issue is today. 

“I think I would just encourage other students to really try and read about the topic, hear both perspectives,” Abdel-Moemen said.

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About the Contributor
Elizabeth Schanz
Elizabeth Schanz is the Lanthorn's Editor in Chief for the 2023-2024 school year. She previously worked as Arts and Entertainment editor, News editor and a staff writer for the news section throughout her three years at the Lanthorn. Elizabeth is a multimedia journalism and dance major with a minor in history. In her free time she likes to paint, go out for sushi and loves hanging out with her dog Sadie and cat Claire. She is also part of the Fredrik Meijer Honors College and Momentum dance club.
Graduating Winter 2024
Major: Multimedia Journalism and Dance
Minor: History