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Demonstrators held a walkout in support of Palestine in front of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center on Nov. 9. Credit: Derek Wong

Around 100 Penn community members participated in a national walkout in front of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center on Thursday demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Supporters gathered near the Split Button at noon on Nov. 9 where several participants gave speeches and read poems. Some participants also wrote chalk messages on the ground calling for a ceasefire and put up posters of Palestinians who have died in the Israel-Hamas war on the Button and barriers surrounding the demonstration.

The walkout opened with calls for a ceasefire, restoration of water and electricity in Gaza, and an end to United States and University aid to Israel. Penn Ph.D. student Hilah Kohen, who spoke at the event, also condemned Penn President Liz Magill’s responses to the Israel-Hamas war.

“My ancestors died in genocide, and yet Liz Magill attempts to tell me — tell all of us — that her actions protect the Jewish community,” Kohen said.

Another speaker pointed out the solidarity between other campus groups, making note of their connection to Fossil Free Penn and Police Free Penn. They said that climate justice and policing are interconnected with the pro-Palestinian cause. 

The speaker talked about Penn’s response to the loss of some donors accusing Magill and University Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok, as well as other trustees with business ties to Israel, of being “the very people who are helping fund this genocide.” 

The speaker also accused Penn of a lack of interest in Palestinians, anti-Zionist, and low-income Jewish people, calling on the University to “do better" in responding to the needs of these groups. 

Throughout the walkout, speakers led rallygoers in chants, including “Ceasefire now” and “Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for genocide.” They also read poems by Palestinian and South African poets. 

The walkout was organized as part of an “international day of shutdown,” according to an event speaker. Students at schools across the country, including Columbia University, had also planned walkouts and die-ins for Nov. 9. 

“All around the world today, people are holding walkouts, rallies, and direct actions in support of Palestine, the least we can do until we get our demands,” another speaker said.

Credit: Weining Ding

A demonstrator holds up a sign in support of Palestine during a rally in front of Van Pelt on Nov. 9.

A Penn student who attended the walkout, who was granted anonymity due to a fear of retaliation, expressed support for the broader pro-Palestinian movement and said it was important for activists to continue taking action.

“This fight does not stop after the protest. When we go home, we don't go back to our warm beds and our warm meals and just forget about everything,” he said. “Again, this is a movement, and this is something that I hope that people will take with them for the rest of their lives, in terms of values and morals.” 

A group of about five pro-Israel supporters gathered near the Ben Franklin statue. College junior Marc Fishkind told The Daily Pennsylvanian that he believed the pro-Palestinian demonstrators needed to have “real conversations with people to talk about the issues.”

Kohen said they hope the demonstration will help the Penn community “understand reality,” pointing to the mounting Palestinian death count over the past month, which Kohen said is higher than the number of undergraduate students at Penn.

“When we build an environment at this University, we must build and maintain a connection with the deepest possible reality, a reality of genocide,” Kohen told the DP. 

Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, health officials in Gaza have reported that over 10,800 Palestinians have been killed in the region, and Israel has reported that over 1,400 Israelis have been killed as of time of publication, according to NBC News.

Pro-Palestinian supporters have gathered on campus several times for rallies, vigils, and demonstrations since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. The DP previously reported that multiple Penn faculty members and students received threats following their involvement as speakers during pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus. 

Magill denounced messages projected onto campus buildings on Wednesday night as “vile” and “antisemitic.” The projections displayed phrases such as “Penn funds Palestinian genocide,” “Let Gaza live,” and “Liz Magill is complicit in genocide.”  Magill said Penn would pursue action against the individuals responsible in line with University policy.

“We’re going to be here until a ceasefire is called, we’re going to be here after a ceasefire is called,” a speaker said towards the end of the walkout. “We’re going to be here until the occupation is over and until Palestine is free.”