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UMKC Students Received University Pushback at Pro-Palestine Protest

Students and community members gathered to create a ‘Liberation Zone.’
Iqbal Singh
A picture of the posters on the University Walkway.

  Over 150 students showed up to participate in a protest in solidarity with Palestine and other protests across the nation on Monday.

  Around 2 p.m., organizers and students put up tents at the University Walkway, started chants and listened to speakers share their passion about Palestinian liberation. Hours into the event, presidential candidate Jill Stein arrived to instill encouragement to students on the issue. 

  Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organized a ‘Liberation Zone’ to protest the ongoing war between Palestine and Israel. 

“SJP have met with admin numerous times, and have gone unheard,” said SJP Vice President and first-year medical student Mahmoud Kutmah. “We are taking a stand. Not just a stand against the university, but with all of the universities that are having the same exact thing happen to them.”

Students and community members listening to SJP President Mahmoud Kutmah. (Iqbal Singh)

 Protestors first met pushback when campus officials attempted to remove the chairs set up for the speaker segment of the event. While unused chairs were removed, students scrambled to occupy the remaining seats. 

  The Dean of Students and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Dr. Michele D. Smith told protesters that UMKC policy does not allow posters to be taped to the University Playhouse. 

  Smith also said that students could not use voice amplifiers on campus. 

  First-year law student and SJP President Yara Salamed said they received mixed signals from Smith. 

  Students were told the space was reserved from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., but Smith was unable to provide any information on the alleged reservation. SJP was later told they could use the space and keep the posters, but the megaphone needed to be removed.

  The group enlisted the support of a Greek life member to corroborate the historical use of both posters and noise amplifiers at the University Playhouse for Greek life events. 

“The school policy prohibits amplifiers that are disruptive, so I asked if anyone complained about it being disruptive,” said Salamed. “She said that she is the one saying so.”

  After receiving objections from SJP, Smith alerted them that the posters and noise amplifiers were permitted, but the three tents needed to be removed. 

  At 4 p.m., university officials forcibly removed the tents, resulting in one tent owner jumping in a UMKC truck and grabbing it. He was seized by a police officer and taken away from the vehicle when another student was able to take the tent back to the group. No arrests were made. 

People gathered around the University Walkway. (Iqbal Singh)

  Students set up three tents to symbolically stand in solidarity with the many campus encampments across the country. In a press release, SJP included a list of demands for UMKC and the UM System. 

Summarized List of Demands

  1. Disclosure and divestment of all funds related to Israel.
  2. Termination of programs affiliated with Israel, such as Fulbright scholars or study abroad in Israel. 
  3. Removal of funds for companies involved with boycotting such as Starbucks. 
  4. Ensure protection of the right to speech for students, faculty and staff and make a clear distinction between anti-zionism and anti-semitism.
  5. Call of action for the local and federal government to stand with Palestine and hold Israel accountable for war crimes. 

  Students continued to talk, sing and eat throughout the evening. New tents were brought and set up. Community members brought sandwiches, wraps and water for the protestors. The night ended around 9 p.m. with a sunset prayer hosted by SJP. 

  Stacy Downs, the Director of Strategic Communications, said that UMKC policies support freedom of expression for campus members if it does not present safety concerns or disrupt normal operations.

  For more updates, follow Roo News on Instagram

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Iqbal Singh
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