Concordia students stage walkout for Palestinian solidarity
Thousands of students at Concordia, McGill, UQAM, UdeM and Dawson call out universities for their support for Israel.
Students at Concordia, as well as other post-secondary institutions across Montreal, walked out of class at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 25 in solidarity with Palestine.
A few hundred students were present and demanded that Concordia divests from Israel.
Students gathered on the ground floor of Concordia’s Hall building, where chants and speeches took place, followed by a sit-in. The People’s Potato cancelled their regular food service to instead serve food to the students attending the walkout in support of the cause.
The walkout was organised by the groups Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Concordia and McGill, Solidarité pour les droits humains des Palestiniennes et Palestiniens (SDHPP) of l’Université de Montréal (UdeM) and l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) as well as Al Raya Dawson in Dawson College.
Noor, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, one of the fundraising executives for SPHR Concordia, said the organization has many goals, such as educating the Concordia community and countering university initiatives that ally with Israeli organizations. “A lot of what we did today is to show the administration what the student body stands for and that we won’t be silenced,” Noor said.
In a statement posted on Instagram stated three main demands: the divestment of funds from manufacturers who provide arms to Israel; the ending of the siege on Gaza and Canada’s funding to Israel; and to sever connections to all exchange programs with Israel and with all Zionist donors.
The Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) external affairs and mobilization coordinator, Hannah Jackson, finds it important to preserve Concordia’s history of student demonstrations, such as the walkout for Civil Rights in 1969. “I think walkouts and sit-ins are historically important methods of protest,” said Jackson. “I think that it’s important to continue that legacy of student activism against racism.”
One of the students in attendance, Omene Akpeokhai, felt it was important to attend the demonstration to show her support for the people of Palestine. “I personally have so much privilege being born and raised here in Canada. I have a voice and it matters so I want to put that to use by protesting, donating, if I can, and going to events such as the one that happened today,” Akpeokhai said.
In a speech given at the demonstration, Jackson criticized Concordia University for spending nearly $9000 to send its president Graham Carr on a luxury trip to Israel and Bar-Ilan University. Students at the rally also demanded Concordia to give more resources to the Palestinian diaspora.
Noor said an important pillar of SPHR is creating safe spaces for Palestinians on campus. “To be able to have a safe space, to be able to express your identity and to be able to exist as a Palestinian is a form of resistance in and of itself,” said Noor. “A lot of it is just caring for each other and having a community.”
Palestinians and Middle Eastern students are not the only ones supporting the cause. Jackson, says that as a Canadian citizen, it is important to speak up for injustices perpetrated by the Canadian government and institutions. “I want to remember what I did when that was happening. Did I watch it on my phone and feel kind of bad, did I share an Instagram graphic, or did I do everything I can to speak up?”
The walkout for Palestine was not limited to the island of Montreal, students across North America participated in this demonstration to show their support. SPHR Concordia is continuing their work to raise awareness by demanding Concordia to name a study room “Palestine” to reflect the diversity of the university. The petition currently sits at just under 200 signatures.