Pro-Palestine protesters march through KU’s campus; Lawrence High students walk out to join

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KU students took the second day of their pro-Palestine protest to the front door of Chancellor Douglas Girod’s office, chanting for him to disclose and divest any financial connections with Israel. 

The march came after a 17-hour occupation in front of Fraser Hall Wednesday. J, a protester who asked to be referred to by their first name for their safety, said the movement felt it needed to bring its message directly to Girod’s doorstep. 

“Shame on you for funding and facilitating this genocide,” J said. “We need to divest. We need financial transparency, to demilitarize the campus and give amnesty to everyone here.”

More than 100 students from Lawrence High School walked out of school to join protesters on campus, one of the high school organizers, who asked to be referred to as Anya, estimated. They walked past Fraser Hall and up to the Kansas Union. Some students marched and chanted through the staircases and dining hall there.

The high schoolers, in a message sent to the KU organizers, expressed their gratitude for being welcomed. They noted that the organizers for the LHS walkout were Libyan, Russian-Jewish and American. 

“This past week, seeing colleges like Columbia and Barnard creating encampments and resisting really inspired a small group of us who have similar opinions to plan a way to show solidarity for those groups,” Anya said. “I hope our peers felt uplifted, inspired and represented by others in our collective fight for justice.”

J said it was amazing to see so many high schoolers join the group’s protest. 

“It was inspiring,” J said. “We are unbelievably proud of the high schools for coming out and showing solidarity.”

J said the group decided business as usual on campus could not go on, triggering the decision to take their protest to classrooms and offices. They parted with the high school students and headed on to Wescoe Hall, and then to Strong Hall, which houses university administrators.

“We took ourselves on the move to disrupt classes, to disrupt administration, to show that no matter what, we will stay on Palestine,” J said. “And we want our demands met.”

The protesters have four demands: That the university divest any financial ties with Israeli government and military interests; that KU disclose those ties; that KU refuse to accept grants from companies that contract with the U.S. Department of Defense or Armed Forces; and that the university grant amnesty to the protesters and protect their First Amendment rights.

The protest began Wednesday morning with the occupation of the lawn outside Fraser Hall. Throughout the day, more than 100 students and faculty members gathered on the lawn to show support for Palestine and protest monthslong violence in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands of people. 

The protest is part of a broad movement on college campuses nationwide that has included students barricading themselves inside university buildings and standoffs with police. 

A university spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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