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With on-campus encampment, KU students join nationwide rallies to support Palestine

Students at the University of Kansas set up an encampment on the campus Tuesday to support Palestine.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
Kansas News Service
Students at the University of Kansas set up an encampment on the campus Tuesday to support Palestine.

LAWRENCE, Kansas – Students on Wednesday set up what they call a “liberation encampment” in support of Palestine on the University of Kansas campus.

In a letter to KU administration, the protesters said they stand “in solidarity with the people of Palestine” as they call for an end to Israel’s war with Hamas and the university’s divestment from Israeli interests. They said they were planning for a multiday event.

“As people of conscience, we believe that to sit by and allow our tuition and labor to support the Israeli war machine would be tantamount to aiding and abetting genocide,” the group, the KU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, said in a release. “…We are committed to Palestinian liberation and freedom for all oppressed peoples.”

In their letter, protesters demanded KU:

· Divest of all ties to Israeli government and military interests.

· Publicize its financial ties to Israel.

· Refuse to accept grants, funding and other financial backing from companies contracted with the U.S. military.

· Guarantee amnesty for students, faculty and staff who participate in the protest.

University of Kansas students camped out on campus Tuesday to protest the war in Gaza and to
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
Kansas News Service
University of Kansas students camped out on campus Tuesday to protest the war in Gaza and to demand that the university divest itself from any ties to Israel.

Jam, a KU student who declined to give their last name due to concerns over their safety, said protesters are “heartbroken and outraged” by what’s happening in Palestine.

In an interview with the Kansas News Service, they reiterated the demands made of KU administration.

“I don’t think any of us want any of our money going anywhere close to being used for chemical weapons of war against civilians that are internationally prohibited,” said Jam, who uses they/them pronouns. “At the end of the day, I think everyone here wants Palestine to be free, everyone wants Palestinians to be liberated, and that can’t be possible unless institutions with hefty financial portfolios can undermine the material support that Israel has from the western world.”

Yara Salamed, a Palestinian-American student from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said she attended KU’s rally in solidarity with the protesters. She previously lived in the West Bank and regularly returns for visits.

“Just being from that background and knowing just how unjust and dehumanizing that experience is like, this is why we’re supporting Palestine and the Palestinian people – because we care about humanity,” she said.

An email sent to KU’s public affairs office requesting comment from the university was not returned.

There was a small police presence at the protest throughout the day.

Capt. Jack Campbell, a spokesman for the KU Police Department, told The University Daily Kansan, KU’s student newspaper, that the department intended to let students protest.

Demands similar to those made of KU administration have been made of Kansas State University by several student groups there, the Manhattan Mercury reported.

University of Kansas students rallying in support of Palestine are keeping a list with the names of victims.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
Kansas News Service
University of Kansas students rallying in support of Palestine are keeping a list with the names of victims.

Across the country

Pro-Palestine protests and rallies have spread across U.S. college and university campuses in recent weeks, including at the University of Missouri campuses in Columbia and Kansas City.

Many have been peaceful, but others have made national headlines as conflict grew and student activists were arrested.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, pro-Israel demonstrators violently clashed with a pro-Palestinian encampment.

And at Columbia University in New York, police removed protesters who were occupying a campus building as the school began suspending participants.

Hamas militants launched an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 250 people hostage. Since then, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Emily Younker is the news editor for the Kansas News Service. She previously spent 14 years at her hometown newspaper, The Joplin Globe in Joplin, Missouri, where she was part of the award-winning team that covered the deadly May 22, 2011, tornado and its aftermath. Email her at eyounker@kcur.org.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.