By Gabriel Donahue, Editor-in-Chief
The usual chatter of the University Union was silenced when a group of roughly 15 students began chanting “Free, free Palestine!” in an unsanctioned demonstration Thursday afternoon that was part of an international walkout organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement calling for a ceasefire and for Israel to end its ongoing siege on Gaza.
The students stood on a Union staircase holding a large banner that said “TU end complicity in Palestinian genocide.”
Some held signs with demands including transparency in the university’s investments and a complete divestment from companies funding Israel and the bombardment on Gaza. The Towerlight has not independently verified the university’s investment status in regard to Israel.
Onlookers listened as the group called out these demands before slowly returning to their conversations.
The demonstration violated at least three student accountability policies, according to an email Friday from Associate Dean of Students Alison Peer.
These include disruption or obstruction of teaching or normal operations, failure to comply with university officials, and violating other university policies, being the policy on Time, Place and Manner of Expressive Activities, Peer said.
“If an individual or organization is found responsible for violating policy(s), accountability actions vary depending on the severity of the situation, impact to the community, and a person or organization’s disciplinary history,” she said. “Suspension is a possible outcome if the situation is severe enough and/or the student or organization has enough of a disciplinary history.”
Peer did not indicate the level of severity this demonstration would be considered.
University personnel and police officers told the group of the violations multiple times during the event, and asked them to cease or go outside.
A new student organization called the Colonized Peoples Revolution organized the demonstration at Towson, according to a message from a member who wished to remain anonymous.
Since Israel launched a retaliation against the Palestinian militant group Hamas after a surprise attack on Oct. 7, over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed with almost 3,000 reported missing, according to TIME. Two-thirds of the population has been displaced.
The Israeli death toll stands at about 1,400 and at least 240 were taken hostage by Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected international calls for a ceasefire, and fighting continues near Gaza’s largest hospital, “where health officials say thousands of medics, patients and displaced people are trapped with no electricity and dwindling supplies,” TIME reported.
“We believe student organizing and bringing awareness to students on campus of the current genocide in Palestine and their university’s part in said genocide is a necessary duty for every student advocating for justice and is an integral part of Towsons community and it’s history citing the anti Vietnam war protests launched on campus back in May of 1972,” the anonymous student wrote.
At least 25 students occupied Linthicum Hall on May 10, 1972, as roughly 75 blocked the outside entrance in what The Towerlight described as “the most radical anti-war action to ever take place at Towson.” Nineteen students were arrested.
Towson students had protested against the Vietnam War since at least December 1969, when in Linthicum Hall a group of 15 disrupted classes and recited the names of Marylanders who died in the war before hosting a teach-in that afternoon, an affair that lasted more than eight hours, according to The Towerlight.
Thursday’s protestors moved from the Union to the College of Liberal Arts building, where they quietly stood on the third floor with their banner and signs looking down to the main second floor entrance.
Bystanders Ben Lindsey and Mariana Williams both said in an interview that even if the students were violating a university policy, the growing group of university personnel and police officers seemed unnecessary since the demonstrators were being quiet and peaceful.
Peer said the university will investigate to find the identities of students involved.