Campus News

SJP hosts protest, calls for continued boycott of Starbucks, McDonalds

Students gathered outside the Starbucks in the Student Center South Thursdays to protest the University’s support for Israel. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

Editor’s note: The identities of the individuals named in this story will remain anonymous to protect the protesters from potential reprisal. 

Thursday, the Student Center South echoed with chants for a free Palestine as Students for Justice in Palestine held a sit-in on the heels of worsening conflict in Israel and Palestine. 

The sit-in was aimed at raising awareness about ongoing boycotts of Starbucks and McDonalds due to their alleged funding of Israel in addition to demanding a permanent ceasefire, said an SJP spokesperson. 

“We’re actively boycotting those two companies because of their complacent behavior and occupation. So, we want to stand firmly and say our university opposes genocide and every entity that empowers it like Starbucks and McDonald’s. So we want to make it known that. We’re not here for these companies,” they told The Cougar. 

While the protest was part of a larger national movement to boycott the two brands, Starbucks has maintained that it does not provide financial support for the Israeli military or government. Critics, however, believe the coffee chain supports the IDF through back-channel funding and indirect support.

Students chanted various statements including: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “Not another nickel, not another dime. No more money for Israel’s crime,” and “UH campus you will see, Palestine will be free.”

Student Government Association President Benjamin Rizk expressed his support for Palestine at an SGA meeting  earlier this week. Rizk lead several of the chants during the protest, and reaffirmed his stance on the conflict. 

If there are children, men and women being slaughtered and displaced from their homes without any justification, in violation, of international law, in violation of all rights that make up Human Rights as declared by UN should be called out,” Rizk said. “Any attempt to silence that, to tell people that they should not be doing this is to silence the war crimes that are going on in the Middle East, particularly by the State of Israel.”

“Any attempt to silence that, to tell people that they should not be doing this is to silence the war crimes that are going on in the Middle East, particularly by the State of Israel.” Rizk said. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

The University has invested over $7 million between 2016 and 2021 in weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Electric and Raytheon that have been complacent in funding Israel, according to a social media post by SPJ

On the steps in front of Starbucks, protesters were making hand-made flags to show their support for Palestine. A Palestinian-American protester said that it is terrifying and frustrating to be in the U.S. right now. 

“It’s just a scary terrifying and frustrating thing because all I see in the media that I’m being given is support for the opposite side and a disregard for the lives being lost,” they said. 

The protest took place just shortly before the recently-established ceasefire in the region came to an abrupt end. On Friday, hostilities in Gaza resumed after Israel claimed Hamas had failed to meet its obligation to release hostages. A Hamas spokesperson denied this claim stating that Israel refused to uphold its end of the bargain, according to the BBC.

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