By Gabriel Donahue, Editor-in-Chief
Freedom Square was a sea of green, red, black and white as a large crowd amassed for a vigil and community circle to support Palestine and call for its liberation from Israeli occupation Wednesday evening.
Six groups came together to host the event: the Muslim and Pakistani student associations, the Society of Arab Students, Women in Philosophy, Towson Freedom School and the Towson chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America.
“Today we stand together to address the ongoing struggles faced by the Palestinian people every single day, and to pray for a future where children can look forward to waking up the next day,” Muslim Student Association Vice President Hyder Javed said to the crowd. “Where fathers can stop pulling their children from the rubble, and mothers can stop worrying whether their kids are still alive.”
Members of various groups spoke at the event, and prayer mats were set up for a call for prayer. Muslim organizers and attendees did the Maghrib, or Sunset, Prayer that Javed said is done shortly after the sun goes down.
Javed also led a Quran recitation and verbal supplication in both Arabic and English.
One organizer with the Muslim Student Association, Sofia, said she hoped the event would offer information for people who may be misinformed about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In an interview, Javed said they condemn all violence against civilians on any side. However, he said the gathering was about more than just the events that have unfolded since last Saturday.
“Without mentioning Hamas entirely, we are here to hold Israel accountable for what has been done to Palestine. What the [Israeli Defense Forces] did to Palestinians,” Javed said. “I think it’s not right to point fingers before judging yourself, before looking at what you have done, before your actions have been accounted for.”
Multiple speakers called for a cease fire.
“Even with all of these atrociously massive numbers [of deaths], the large portion of the world is still silent; and may I add that that includes this very university,” said Summer Ayad of Towson Freedom School, a Black-led club focused on radical thought via an abolitionist, feminist lens.
Ayad added that the two campus-wide emails the university sent last week “grossly misrepresent and minimize the colonial system that has been violently enforced on Palestinians for decades, under occupation that treats them like they are subhuman.”
She referred to interim-President Melanie Perreault’s Oct. 12 statement on “the terroristic attack on Israel and the resulting war in the region,” which Ayad said ignores the source of the violence.
The Nakba in 1947-9 displaced 750,000 Palestinians and led to the establishment of the State of Israel, according to the UN. “The UN General Assembly called for refugee return, property restitution and compensation,” which has never been fulfilled, it reports.
Two million Palestinians live in the 139-square-mile Gaza Strip, which Israel has blockaded since Hamas came to power in 2007, CBS News reported. It was the militant wing of Hamas that attacked Israel last Saturday, breaking through the Israel-Gaza border blockade.
The Associated Press reported that that ongoing blockade and the illegal establishment of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian-populated West Bank pushed Hamas to attack. The attack killed at least 250 Israelis and injured 1,500, according to the AP.
Over 100 Israelis are still being held hostage, the AP reported.
A UN expert recently said that “Palestinians are in grave danger of mass ethnic cleansing,” according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Both Israelis and Palestinians claim indigeneity to the land.
“If the university really cared for Palestinian students, they would not go so far to diminish and neutralize their struggles,” Ayad said.
Perreault was at the event, as well as acting Provost Cynthia Cooper, Vice President of Student Affairs Vernon Hurte and Vice President of the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity Patricia Bradley.
In an interview, Hurte did not respond to the criticism by Ayad, but instead said that university leadership will continue supporting the expression of student viewpoints.
“I’m proud of our students for using their voice to advocate for issues that are important to them,” Hurte said. “That’s what a college campus is about.”
Note: A previous version of this story referred to reports from Oct. 12 that said over 1,400 Palestinians had been killed. It has been updated to reflect a more recent report from The Associated Press from Oct. 19, the date of this story’s publication.