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BC Community Members Gather on O’Neill Plaza for Pro-Palestine Protest

A crowd of Boston College community members gathered on O’Neill Plaza early Thursday evening for a “Boston College Speaks Out for Palestine” protest. Student organizers shared speeches criticizing BC’s response to the war in Gaza and led chants calling for a ceasefire.

“I’m disappointed because I’m convinced too many of my peers at Boston College are living in a different world than I am,” Fairuz Saleh, LSEHD ’26, said to the crowd. “Because we’re a university that preaches men and women for others, I assume no students would turn a blind eye to the constant violence Palestinians are enduring.” 

Three individual students registered the demonstration in advance with the University, and BC Buddies for Palestine, an independent student group, publicized and led the event.  

Students at multiple universities in the Boston area have organized pro-Palestine protests this week, with many setting up encampments on and around their campuses. Wednesday night, the Boston Police Department forcibly broke up Emerson College’s encampment and arrested more than 100 students.

Among those arrested were H Edwards and TJ Smith, both MCAS ’26. Edwards and Smith received letters from the University on Thursday, stating they were prohibited from attending the protest on BC’s campus Thursday evening.

In lieu of their presence, one of the event organizers read a written statement from Edwards to the crowd.

“The brutality, pain, and abuse at the hands of cops at a peer institution and cops of the state was not a concern to BC admin,” the organizer read. “BC admin has ruled me a threat to the safety and well-being and effective functioning of the Boston College community because I’m in alleged violation involving non-compliance with law enforcement and disrupting the peace at the Emerson protests yesterday.” 

Several BCPD officers stood around the perimeter of O’Neill Plaza during the event. Hashim Wise, an attendee of the protest and CSON ’27, said he was disappointed by the police presence.

“I mean, just looking around and seeing cops in every corner—even them claiming that it’s for our own safety—is just ridiculous,” Wise said.

Multiple speeches criticized the University for indirectly supporting Israel with funds. In a speech to the crowd, Amina Awad, SSW ’24, said a portion of the University’s endowment is invested in ExxonMobil, an oil and gas corporation that supplies the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with fuel.

“Those tanks that are running over Palestinians are being fueled with our endowment—with our tuition,” Awad said. “As students, faculty, political leaders, and members of this community, we ask Boston College to divest from apartheid, divest from genocide, and to recognize that their endowment is covered in blood—the blood of Palestinians.” 

Awad also criticized BC’s hiring of Ira Kirschner, a former IDF soldier, as the associate director of the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center to lead LGBTQ+ resources and programming.

“BC hired an ex-IDF soldier … to support LGBTQ+ students,” Awad said. “As a queer Palestinian, I know that queer liberation and Palestinian liberation go hand in hand, so shame on BC for not supporting its Palestinian students.” 

Kirschner did not respond to a request for comment before the time of publication. 

Awad also said the University placed her on disciplinary probation for her activism. According to an online petition, two BC graduate students were placed on disciplinary probation for participating in an unregistered protest on Feb. 15, marching from Carney Hall to Boyden Park—a public parcel of land in front of St. Ignatius Church.

“I’ve spent the last six months dealing with the massacres of Palestinian friends and family, hearing about horrific displacements and death, and the only response I’ve received from BC is being put on disciplinary probation,” Awad said.

Erica Perez, an attendee of the protest and SSW ’24, said her decision to attend stemmed from her values as a social work student.

“I’m here because I’m trying to represent social work values—at least the social work values that they are trying to educate us on,” Perez said. “I don’t think it’s fair that when we stand up and we advocate for people with less power, that they go ahead and punish us.”

Wyatt Seder-Burnaford, another attendee and MCAS ’25, said it is especially important for BC students to show their solidarity with Palestinians given the recent demonstrations on other college campuses.

“With what’s going on at other campuses, I think it’s really important for the BC student body to be showing solidarity with them, and I think it’s very clear that BC is not doing what they can do,” Seder-Burnaford said. “As a general university, I would be embarrassed if every other school in Boston and around the country is up in arms and we’re not.”

Joshua Park, MCAS ’25, said he attended the protest because he felt it was wrong to do nothing.

“I can’t sit back at home,” Park said. “I just don’t feel right about it. I don’t know, there’s nothing more to it than I just don’t feel good about it.” 

Saleh said that despite the ongoing destruction in Gaza, she remains hopeful, and asked attendees to continue honoring the Palestinian people and speaking up. 

“It is the hope of the Palestinian people—their unbreakable spirit and untouched courage—that reminds me to keep my head held high,” Saleh said. “The tens of thousands of martyrs will not die in vain. Boston College, it’s time to break our silence.”

Update (April 26, 2024, 10:13 a.m.): This article was updated from a previous version to redact unverifiable information in a quote by Amina Awad, SSW ’24. 

Correction (April 26, 2024, 4:07 p.m.): This article was updated from a previous version to correct information regarding who registered the protest. 

April 26, 2024