UBC community members march in nationwide walkout for Palestine

On October 25, members of the UBC community rallied in support of Palestine.

Gathering in front of the Nest, a crowd of community members chanted “free, free Palestine” and “occupation is crime.”

The walkout, organized by Fightback Vancouver with support from the UBC branch of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) and the UBC Social Justice Centre, was part of a larger series of rallies across Canada this week, following a call from the Palestinian Youth Movement.

On October 7, Hamas launched an offensive into Israel who then declared war on Hamas, with the Israeli defense minister calling for a “complete siege” of Gaza. The United Nations Secretary-General called for an immediate ceasefire on October 24.

Isa S. You / The Ubyssey
Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

The crowd, raising signs of solidarity, gathered to hear speeches from students which criticized UBC’s and Canada’s response to the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine.

On October 11, UBC released a statement which has garnered criticism from faculty and community members for remaining silent about Palestinians.

“UBC doesn’t even have the nerve to mention the name of Palestine,” said one speaker about the statement.

A circulating faculty-led open letter is condemning the statement for remaining “silent regarding the ongoing state terror committed by Israel against Palestinians.”

As of October 26, it has over 1,000 signatures.

The sentiment of the letter was echoed by another speaker who also criticized UBC’s “hypocrisy” for remaining silent on Palestine while doing land acknowledgments.

“The institution that claims to be on the side of Indigenous people in Canada, has responded to the ongoing genocide in the most shameful and cowardly way, phrasing it as an Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“Shame,” cried the crowd in response.

“It's not okay to erase us,” said the speaker, drawing more cried of "shame" from the crowd.

Isa S. You / The Ubyssey
Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

Speakers also voiced anger about the lack of space given to Palestinian issues in the classroom.

“I have been literally paying for the department to teach me the meaning of genocide and the meaning of ethnic cleansing and the meaning of revolution," said one student, pointing out how their classrooms should be, but are currently not, spaces to hear Palestinian voices.

Students also demanded UBC divest from companies complicit in Palestinian human rights violations. Last year, the AMS released a statement urging UBC to divest, which UBC opposed.

“Solitary means divestment,” said a speaker.

Isa S. You / The Ubyssey
Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

In a statement to The Ubyssey, Mathew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, wrote “UBC supports all of our community members to protest and advocate peacefully for causes that they feel strongly about.”

Ramsey wrote that UBC's position on BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) has previously been stated.

“We are constantly considering how we can better incorporate our ESG beliefs and principles within our investment pools, but it is crucial that we do so in conjunction with financial returns and risks on these investments,” added Ramsey.

After the speeches, the crowd marched from the plaza towards the President's Office at Walter Koerner Library “free, free Palestine” and called for a true revolution for change.

"We stand with the Palestinians, we stand on the side of the oppressed by the violence of the oppressor. We call for a new Intifada, a new mass uprising," said a speaker.

Renée Rochefort / The Ubyssey

They crowded the stairs from the entry to the seventh floor, and demanded to see Interim President Deborah Buszard.

While the crowd started to disperse when the University RCMP arrived at the library's doors, solidarity between community members continued on the next day with smaller gatherings in front of Koerner library and the Nest.