Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 23, 2024

Hopkins divest from weapons manufacturers, students and community members demand

By MAYA BRITTO | April 29, 2024

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COURTESY OF ABIGAIL TUSCHMAN 

On April 28, Hopkins students, affiliates and community members protested in solidarity with the people of Palestine.  

Hopkins students and community members voiced their support for the people of Gaza and demanded that the University divest from weapons manufacturers supplying the Israeli government on Wednesday, April 24.

The protest, which started at 6 p.m., was coordinated to take place alongside protests at Columbia University, Yale University, Harvard University and Rutgers University. The event was jointly organized by the Hopkins Justice Collective (HJC), the Hopkins and Bloomberg School of Public Health Students for Justice in Palestine, Hopkins Students for Palestine, the Baltimore branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Hopkins Coalition Against War. 

After a safety warning, opening speeches by various Hopkins affiliates included thanking protestors for attending the event to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza. 

Romana Miller, a community member who attended the protest discussed what pushed her to join in an interview with The News-Letter

“I know that as random people, there is not a whole lot we can do to stand up to these big, powerful forces. But at the same time, the bigger this movement grows, the harder it’s going to be for the people in power to ignore,” she said. “It is easy for me to get despondent, and say, ‘What’s the point in coming?’ But if everyone did that, there’d be five people here.” 

The crowd was made up of hundreds of students, affiliates and community members. They initially gathered at the Beach but later marched through Homewood Campus from Keyser Quad to Freshman Quad, chanting slogans along the way. The chants revealed the groups’ main concerns and demands, including “How many more will die next? JHU must divest!” and "Ronald Daniels, you can't hide, you're complicit in genocide."

In the interest of safety, students were instructed to redirect any administration members or police officers who approached them to the “de-escalators,” who wore bright yellow vests. Undergraduate student Simcha Fleischmann, a member of HJC and an event organizer, was one of the de-escalators present at the event. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, Fleischmann described that one of the organizers’ main goals was to raise awareness of the urgency of the situation in Gaza and to mobilize more Hopkins students to be involved. 

“Hopkins is a politically judgy campus, but not a politically active one. It takes people a lot of convincing to give up their comfort: to skip a class [and] go to a protest. We didn’t know if we would really have the numbers to do something on a larger scale,” they said. “Today was really a test to see — given the escalations we’ve seen [and] how many more mass graves have been uncovered — who is going to show up now that didn’t show up in October? We are really encouraged to see that momentum building.” 

After returning to the Beach, the open mic portion of the protest began, giving attendees the opportunity to speak their thoughts. During this time, Kim Jensen, a Baltimore resident and former Hopkins affiliate voiced her support for student activism regarding Palestinian liberation. 

“I cannot begin to tell you how heartening it is to see so many young people finally rising up and getting involved in this struggle,” she said. “To be honest, I never thought that I was going to see, all the way across America, all these young people taking a stand for what’s right — to stop ethnic cleansing, to stop genocide, to stop these horrific attacks that [have] been crushing the people of Palestine for 75 years now.”

However, not all those present at the event were in support of this perspective. Ella is a Hopkins PhD candidate using a pseudonym, and she has family in Israel. In an interview with The News-Letter, She discussed how she has witnessed a lack of condemnation of Hamas’ crimes by those who support Gaza and a lack of empathy for those taken hostage by Hamas. 

Ella described how many students do not know that “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan frequently chanted by the student protestors and supporters of Gaza across the country, is perceived as a call to violence to Israelis. 

“It is a call for violence. [On] this campus, the Israelis are a minority. They should protect them,” she said. “If I need to come here and check what is being shouted, and if there are any calls to violence, that is something I will do.” 

At the end of the protest, the crowd was dispersed or stayed on the Beach to help make more signs for future demonstrations. 

In regards to future plans for protest, Fleischmann discussed how HJC organizers have ideas for upcoming events and are paying close attention to demonstrations at other college campuses.

“We are closely watching the encampments happening at Columbia. We have seen the arrests at Yale,” they said. “We are very aware of what is happening on other campuses. We are planning something that is going to keep people safe, while we can still make our specific demands — divesting from weapons companies, severing ties with Tel Aviv [University], stopping the JHPD [Johns Hopkins Police Department].”

In an interview with The News-Letter, Jensen emphasized the importance of student activism and its capacity to create change, encouraging Hopkins students to keep making their voices heard. 

“These protestors are brave, they are smart and they are using their education to make the world a better place,” she said.

The protesters stated that they will continue to demonstrate until their main demands are met, including that the University divest from weapons manufacturers Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman and that the Bloomberg School of Public Health severs its ties with Tel Aviv University. The student’s central demand for divestment is one shared with students from colleges across the country. 

In an email to The News-Letter, Megan Christin, the University's Director of Strategic Communications, contended that although Hopkins has a formal process for considering divestment requests, they have yet to receive one. 

“The [University] has a process for considering divestment requests through our Public Interest Investment Advisory Committee,” she wrote. “Any divestment proposals should be submitted through the PIIAC process for consideration by the committee and ultimately the Board of Trustees, who have fiduciary responsibility for the institution. We take seriously every request received, and we have not received a request to date.”


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