Campus, News

Students hold vigil for victims of war in Gaza

The tone shifted from the earlier protest from anger to somber reflection as students gathered in front of Brotman Hall on Wednesday night to honor and remember the victims of the Gaza conflict.

Students carried candles, laid down flowers and drew messages in chalk near the fountain.

The vigil began with a traditional Islamic prayer while organizers handed out candles.

This was the third demonstration by students on campus since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.

As of writing, the fighting rages on with the death toll in Gaza now surpassing 7,000.

According to the United Nations, many of the casualties are children and there is no ceasefire in sight. Israel’s death toll sits at more than 1,400.

One by one, different speakers stood to share their thoughts on the conflict, some reading speeches, some reciting poems and others leading the group in prayer. Few provided their names prior to speaking.

Students take part in a candlelight vigil just outside Brotman Hall by the fountain on Oct. 25, 2023, to commemorate the lives lost during the Palestine-Israel confict in the Middle East.
Students take part in a candlelight vigil just outside Brotman Hall by the fountain on Oct. 25, 2023, to commemorate the lives lost during the Palestine-Israel confict in the Middle East. Photo credit: Naoki Gima

Chalk messages and signs behind the speakers read “Break the chains of oppression” and “5,887 killed, 2,390 children, 1,293 women, 2,204 men”

One speaker read an excerpt from Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy.”

“When he beats his bars and he would be free; It is not a carol of joy or glee, But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core, But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings. I know why the caged bird sings,” the speaker said.

At one point in the night, a man walked by and hurled expletives at the group but they were swiftly escorted away by organizers.

Members from various student organizations were present including La F.U.E.R.Z.A and Students for Justice in Palestine.

Wym Greene, a Jewish American student rose to speak to give their thoughts on the conflict emphasizing that Israel and the Israeli government do not represent the whole of the Jewish people.

“There’s been rhetoric from so many politicians construing Judaism alongside Zionism. The Israeli government does not represent the Jewish people. Zionism does not represent Jewish values. We do not condone genocide or murder of innocents ever,” Greene said.

As planned speakers wrapped up, an open invitation was given to any and all who wished to share their thoughts on the matter.

One attendee, Amber, a religious studies major who spoke with the Daily Forty-Niner on the condition that her last name not be used, shared her thoughts on the administration’s response to the previous protests on campus.

“When students are required to take humanities classes. And we’re required to learn these things. But then when we put them into action, they want to suppress us. So they want us to sit there and learn about them, but then not actually put any of it into action,” Amber said.

In an email sent on Oct. 10, President Jane Close Conoley said, “We reject any glorification of war or celebration of death, and we acknowledge the pain caused by speech that does.”

“So what makes a terrorist is what whoever is in power says is a terrorist. Especially in a situation like this, when one side is being oppressed, and the other has billions of dollars getting funded to them, are getting fed to them, through the United States and other countries,” Amber said.

The CSULB Jewish Employees Association sent a statement via email the day of both the vigil and the walk out.

“The CSULB Jewish community, especially our students, are traumatized by the events of Oct. 7. Most of us have family in the Middle East, suffered devastating losses at the hands of Hamas, and are deeply fearful of what is to come,” the statement read.

“I just wish that people would want to become aware of what is happening. And I think that we have a really big problem of apathy right now. Because we see so many awful things that a lot of people no longer care, and we really have to care. We have to care because if we don’t care, then it’s just gonna get worse,” Amber said.

The vigil ended with chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

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