On November 7th, 2023, a group of students from the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle organized a walkout, choosing to occupy the university's administration office located in Gerberding Hall (Figure 1). According to the PR representative for the Progressive Student Union (PSU), one of the organizing entities, declared that the protest aimed to push for divestment from Israel, the termination of UW's connections with Boeing, and an end to the repression faced by pro-Palestinian students, workers, and faculty.
This protest echoes previous instances where UW students expressed concerns regarding the university's association with Boeing, an American aircraft company deeply rooted in Seattle. Previous concerns about the University’s relationship with Boeing were raised earlier this year. The controversy arises due to Boeing's involvement in weapons manufacturing, coupled with its close ties to UW, where the company employs numerous students and researchers, particularly in aircraft and weapons development. Earlier this year, concerns were raised, and with Boeing taking pro-Israel initiatives, students continue to emphasize the importance of addressing these issues.
The demonstrators remained inside the building for approximately nine hours, refusing to vacate until they secured a meeting with the Dean, Ana Mari Cauce, who could address their demands. After the building closed at 5 pm, The campus police intervened, asking protestors to leave, citing trespassing and fire code violations.
Many protestors refused to leave, continued stating their demands, and drew attention to their cause with chants such as “SPD, KKK, IDF, you’re all the same.” SPD then used force to drag students out of the building and throw them onto the ground outside. Many of these protestors are now facing arrest and processing for trespassing, but a lot of them stand their ground and believe they did the right thing. Subsequently, the Seattle Police Department used force to remove protestors, leading to arrests and trespassing charges.
Many protestors defend their actions, viewing civil disobedience as a necessary means to instigate real change. As put by one of the speakers at the demonstration, “[their] power is useless if [they] only ever operate within the bounds of the university and the state allows us to operate.” UW’s administration is yet to release a statement on the events of November 7th.
On the flip side, the polarized political climate surrounding this issue has created fear on campus, particularly among Jewish students who report feeling unsafe. Dean Cauce has acknowledged this tension in previous statements, recognizing and validating the concerns of all individuals, irrespective of their stance on the issue.
The events of November 9th at Gerberding Hall may serve as a harbinger of future protests both on the UW campus and nationwide. Similar demonstrations have already taken place at institutions such as the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.
Depending on institutional support, universities worldwide may witness similar acts of protest. Despite the potential for continued unrest, the PSU insists, "Even if the demands were not agreed to today, they can no longer be ignored," signaling a determination to persist in their advocacy efforts.
Edited by: Matsoarelo Makuke
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