Activities & Organizations News

SJP organizes week long sit-in protest

Students for Justice in Palestine HTX held a sit-in protest. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

Last week, Students for Justice in Palestine HTX held a sit-in protest, to reclaim the Student Center South to push for divestment and establish the Popular University for Gaza. 

The reclamation of Student Center South was endorsed by UH Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Coalition and was conducted from April 22 to April 25. 

“We want to bring forward the reality that we are living under in which we go to and find institutions that are directly funding the military, arms and building weapons,” said industrial design junior Amna A. 

The purpose of the week-long sit-in, apart from the calls for divestment, was to mass educate community members to learn about the UH divest campaign, settler colonialism and Israel’s occupation of Palestine, the organizers said. 

“We believe that we have a responsibility to bring about the intellectualism that is demanded in university spaces,” Amna said. “This has been a space for growth and learning.” 

The students sat on the monumental stairs in front of Starbucks and conducted the sit-in protest with various programs. Such as poster making, learning various Arabic chants, political education, potluck and screening of movies like “Gaza Surf Club” and “Resistance, Why?”

The protesters gathered at the Student Center steps every day last week from 8 a.m to midnight. Several students stopped by to show their support to the cause throughout the week. 

“It’s very important to use our voice to speak up about these issues and demand more from our university as students,” said psychology senior Mariel Campoy. “If I can do my small part by choosing to study here instead of the library, then why not, it’s the absolute bare minimum that we could do.”

Despite the support from the students, on the first day of the sit-in, the police were called by UH to remove the protestors from the Student Center. They were also asked to take down their signs, due to it being against the University policy.

According to the SJP organizer, the protesters spoke to a member of the UH admin and urged them to remember that the Student Centers are public places and that they have the right to exercise their freedom of speech. 

“This University is one of the most diverse colleges in the entire country and with that title, we have to be super accepting towards movements like this,” said architecture senior Jack Madsoup. “The school should be encouraging this kind of activism.”

While the protestors did not face any further difficulties from UH, there was an unfortunate incident with a student YouTuber. The student tried to agitate the protesters and start a fight, however, the police did not take any action. Later, the students who were concerned about the protestors’ safety, removed the agitator, according to Amna. 

“The student started yelling and utilizing identity politics as a way to weaponize the Palestinian struggle,” Amna said. “He was calling us derogatory terms and being racist, but he was just embarrassing himself.”

The protesters have continued to demand a ceasefire and believe that it’s unfair that their taxes are going towards investments such as weaponry which is used on Gaza, according Madsoup.

As a part of their Boycott, Divest and Sanctions campaign, SJP has continued to call for the University to divest from companies involved in the state of Israel and for the replacement of food chains like Starbucks, McDonald’s and Sabra on campus. 

“As a student that goes here, I don’t feel comfortable knowing that my fee money is going to people that are actively hurting others,” Campoy said. 

The protester expects the same treatment by UH to the resolution to divest from Israel, that was given to the resolutions written by the Black Student Union at UH, to divest from the apartheid in 1987 in South Africa.

“This is not a political issue anymore, it’s a humanitarian issue,” Amna said. “If they refuse to address this, then there’s a big problem in our morals on this campus.”

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