The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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St. John’s University Students and Faculty Rally In Solidarity With Palestine

Amid demonstrations across United States campuses, dozens protest throughout SJU.
SJU students and faculty walked through campus and held signs in protest of the on-campus Starbucks and Burger King.
Torch Photo / Malak Kassem

About 50 students and faculty members joined a rally in support of Palestine on April 25 at 1:30 p.m. The St. John’s Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) organized the demonstration and began at the second floor of the D’Angelo Center (DAC) in front of Starbucks, where protestors called for a University-wide boycott of the on-campus Starbucks and Burger King.

The demonstration comes at a time when campuses across the country have experienced larger rallies and on-campus encampments surrounding the Israel-Gaza war, many of which are being met with mass arrests. These have been reported at a number of schools including New York, Yale and Columbia universities.

Protesters held up signs that included statements like “boycott for Palestine” and  “your $ matters” in front of the DAC Starbucks. 

The initial meet-up location at DAC served as a silent demonstration per a public safety request due to class sessions occurring on the floor. Members of PSC went around tables asking students to sign a petition that advocates for the removal of Starbucks and Burger King on the St. John’s campus, which are believed to support Israeli entities. 

Approximately 310 signatures in support of removing Starbucks and Burger King have been collected throughout the rally, according to PSC.

Sabrina Sarwar, the co-founder and vice president of PSC told The Torch that students want to see action from the community and University that is built on Catholic values. 

“St. Johns has repeatedly used band-aid cover-ups, which has shown their weak support for Palestine,” Sarwar said, referencing what she believes are neutral statements sent out by University deans “about the Israel-Hamas war, which is a false narrative that American media put out.”

The group walked over to a lecture hall in DAC where they listened to a teach-in held by the Muslim Student Association (MSA), featuring Rohaan Gill, a nurse who worked in Gaza during the current war. He described his experience in Gaza, such as treating patients with detrimental body burns, cancer patients with no access to medication and children who are experiencing life-threatening injuries because of airstrikes. 

At around 2:30 p.m, demonstrators rallied to the Burger King on campus, in Marillac Hall, where they chanted “not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crime,” “BK isn’t even that good, buy more from your neighborhood,” among other chants. 

Following the stop at Burger King, marchers walked across campus to St. John’s Law School, where protestors were met with hostile reactions including from Joseph Haimov, a law student at the University.  

“If you equivocate the intentional killing of civilians with the coincidental killing of civilians, what you really do is incentivize military targets to hide behind civilians because it’s illegal to kill civilians in any case,” Haimov said.

Several other students at St. John’s Law recorded the demonstration, pressing demonstrators on why they felt the need to cover their faces on camera “if you have nothing to hide,” they said. 

The demonstration concluded in front of St. Augustine Hall, where PSC leaders left protestors with final statements. 

“It’s important for St. John’s to stand with Palestine because St. John’s is founded on Vincentian love and ethics,” Amal Ahmad, an organizer with PSC, said. 

“A boycott and ask[ing] to remove Burger King and Starbucks is only the start of standing and committing to Palestinian liberation on our campus and it’s time for our community to take a stand.”

In a statement to The Torch, University spokesperson Brian Browne said, “St. John’s University respects students’ right to free speech. The demonstration held at the Queens Campus was planned, scheduled when classes were not in progress and adhered to internal University policies.” 

“There were no reported incidents in connection with the event,” he said.

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About the Contributor
Malak Kassem
Malak Kassem, News Editor
Malak Kassem is a third-year journalism student serving as the News Editor for the 2024-2025 academic year. She has previously been on the editorial board as Opinion Editor for the Fall 2023 semester. When she's not writing for The Torch, Malak loves going for long walks and baking. Malak can be reached at [email protected].
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