About 200 protesters, including several Boston University students, gathered on the Krentzman Quadrangle at Northeastern University on Tuesday to protest Northeastern’s suspension of a pro-Palestine student group.
Northeastern shut down the NU Students for Justice in Palestine, which advocates on behalf of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, last week for allegedly violating the university’s Student Organization Resource Guide, according to several news outlets.
Tuesday’s protest coincided with university hearings of two NUSJP members who are facing sanctions for distributing mock eviction notices around the university, a campaign designed to simulate how Palestinians were allegedly removed from their homes by Israeli forces.
“I know a lot of the supporters here [at the protest] do not particularly support our issue, but I think it is an issue of free speech,” said Manuela Uribe, a member of BU’s chapter of SJP who attended the protest. “These issues could happen anywhere. It’s very scary.”
Uribe, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said BUSJP has not conflicted with BU administration.
Protesters picketed, chanted and marched from the Krentzman Quadrangle to the office of Northeastern President Joseph Aoun with a petition signed by more than 6,000 individuals. The petition demanded that the NUSJP be reinstated and that the administration’s charges against the two NUSJP members be dropped.
The protest was planned by a coalition of 30 organizations, including faith groups, feminist and LGBTQ groups and SJP chapters from other universities.
Madeline Burrows, who spoke at the protest and is traveling with the Palestinian-American Ali Abunimah Book Tour, said the number of protesters who attended impressed her.
“It’s Tuesday morning, it’s difficult for people to come by,” she said. “The fact that there are still so many people here speaks to the support for SJP at Northeastern.”
Rabbi Joseph Berman, a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, also spoke at the protest.
“JVP for Boston demands that Northeastern reinstate SJP, drop any disciplinary action against its members and become an institution of higher learning that supports freedom of speech for all of its students,” he said during his speech.
Liza Behrendt, a JVP Boston organizer, said she was “disheartened” by Northwestern’s decision to suspend NUSJP.
“Our hope is to put enough pressure on the Northeastern administration that they reinstate NUSJP and drop all charges against individual members,” she said. “We also want to send a message to administrations all over the nation that it is not acceptable to censor the speech of students, especially students who are simply calling for human rights.”
Martin Federman, former Hillel Director at Northeastern, said he was upset by the recent action taken against the SJP at Northeastern.
“I don’t suspect that it [the protest] is going to achieve anything in terms of making the university change their decision, but the protest is important and needs to be publicized,” he said.
Judy D. Rouse, a member of Local 26, a union of Massachusetts’s hospitality workers, also attended the protest.
“They want the best students to come here, they want them to grow and aspire as a person and speak up and change the future,” she said. “They say we want these things for you, but you have to do it our way. I just don’t feel that that is right and I wouldn’t want that for my kids.”
Rouse said the protest might eventually persuade Northeastern to reinstate NUSJP.
“Progress doesn’t happen over night, but it’s going to build more awareness,” she said. “It’s going to get the administration to take a step back and think. Hopefully this will be a wake up call for them.”