Pro-Palestinian Protestors Demand MNSU Mankato Divest From Israel

From Thursday through the weekend, Mavericks for Change set up tents, marched and chanted outside Minnesota State University’s Centennial Student Union, and held educational activities to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Mavericks for Change also advocated that MSU divest any investments in Israel and called for a ceasefire.

“We’re out here to demand the university disclose and divest investments in Israel and aligned arms manufacturing corporations, including Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, as well as to demand an explicit call for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza,” said Cole Koets, president of Mavericks for Change.

Signs around the tents set up by Mavericks for Change included a variety of statements such as, “free Gaza,” “stop funding genocide” and “students for ceasefire.”

On Thursday, inside an open tent, students participating in the encampment painted signs while listening to music. Pamphlets were provided as part of a Liberation Library, which also included books by Angela Y. Davis, Susan Abulhawa and other authors.

One pamphlet, “We [Palestinians] are not going away, First-person accounts on the war in Gaza,” had quotes from individuals purported to be living in Gaza. 

One quote from that pamphlet, attributed to an unnamed “nurse in Gaza,” states, “If we are not destined to continue living, then memorize our actions, our names, and our pictures, and write on our graves in bold script: Here lie those who loved life and could not find a way to live it.” The pamphlet was created by an organization called Pleasure Pie.

On Friday afternoon, while graduation ceremonies took place on campus, protestors marched and chanted around the fountain outside the Centennial Student Union. These chants included “Israel bombs, USA pays, how many kids did you kill today?” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” amongst other phrases.

While the marching and chanting took place Friday, students decked out in graduation regalia had their photos taken by friends and relatives by the fountain. In the midst of all of this, one student, Salem Abuatiya, with his face marked with red, blood like make-up, with a button down shirt that had similarly been marked with red paint, held up a sign that said, “Gaza graduation photo” while intermingling with students and their relatives.

”We should remember the people around us, even if we have happiness. That’s not wrong, like everyone deserves to have happiness. But what becomes wrong is when you forget about the people and the people that you especially, it’s you who make them sad. We pay for this thing with our taxes. So when I graduate I want at a minimum for humanity to remember the lives of the people who didn’t have the chance to graduate because of the taxes I paid for Israel to bomb those lives, for the university to kill those young men like me,” said Abuatiya.

As part of the protest Saturday, Abuatiya also took time to teach the Palestinian dance Dabkeh to other students.

”Dabkeh is a traditional dance that was passed by generation down by generation. I was taught by my friend, who was taught by his father, who was taught by his father, so this is something our grandfathers used to do,” said Abuatiya.

“What I’m teaching them today is used in our traditions, our memories, our days, our big events that we have in my country. It’s just now we dance with it. We make it a memory by dancing and singing,” said Abuatiya.

The phrase “from the river to the sea” was frequently used by the protestors and has also drawn controversy due to claims that the phrase can be seen as calling for the destruction of Israel and the elimination of Jewish people from the area. However, there are those who use the phrase who do not agree with that interpretation, including at least one individual who participated in the Mavericks for Change protest.

“To me this sign doesn’t mean I hate jews or anything like that. This means Palestinians need their homes too. And I understand the war started, in a way, they were attacked. But that’s not representative of the whole Palestinian people,” said an anonymous protester who chose not to give their name and was holding a sign stating “From the river to the sea.”

Others involved with the protest pointed out that similar statements by the Israeli government could just as equally be seen as calling for the destruction of Palestine.

The protest was characterized as being peaceful by Vice President of Student Affairs David Jones.

“What we did see was pretty peaceful interaction on the whole,” Jones said. “There were some visitors to our campus [for whom] that probably was the first time they saw something like that.”

At this point, despite several requests, the university administration has yet to comment on which specific demands they would consider meeting.

University President Edward Inch met with leaders from Mavericks for Change Tuesday. In a statement released after that meeting, Inch did not provide specifics, merely that he felt that the meeting had been productive and that he wished to continue to keep in contact with the group.

“I appreciated the opportunity to have the conversation,” Inch said in the statement. “We have some ideas for working together in the future, and I look forward to the continued dialogue.”

Photo/Write to Jeremy Redlien at

One thought on “Pro-Palestinian Protestors Demand MNSU Mankato Divest From Israel

  • danielsebold

    I frankly don’t believe that Minnesota’s premier public diversity university would have investments in Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, America’s largest military contractors. Do you protesters have any proof of this? Say it aint so. Well, maybe it is so. Are they using public money to invest in these places? Wow, American capitalism is really amazing. Here you are celebrating the diversity of these sweet Palestinian students while your university is profiting from war and your country is thirty-five trillion in debt from endless wars and your tuition is skyrocketing as a result. You are all going to pay. Why bother studying dark comedies like Doctor Strangelove in your literature classes when you’re living in one? You students have so many better things to worry about, like, what to wear to class tomorrow. The Cambodian toddlers playing outside my door say hello. MSU English/Spanish alumnus and Gulf War veteran.


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