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University of Iowa students call for ceasefire

Students hold a three-day protest at the Iowa City Pentacrest demanding the University of Iowa disclose their investments and divest from businesses that aid Israel.
Addison Pirkl
“The students are the moral voice of the nation, they are speaking up and they have no fear. They are strong, and I respect them,” says protestor Newman Abuissa.

On May 3, 2024, University of Iowa students rallied at the Pentacrest demanding the University not only to disclose their investments to the public, but to divest from companies that aid or associate with the Israeli military to demonstrate their support to those in Palestine.

While many students took graduation photos, studied for finals and enjoyed the sunny weather over the weekend, Iowa City Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) stood in solidarity for three days, protesting against the humanitarian crisis in Palestine on the Pentacrest’s front lawn.

“At the core of this vision is to see a liberated Palestine, free of occupation and violence enacted by colonial nation-states that have used academic institutions to create the tools of oppression,” says SJP’s vision statement. 

Israel invaded the Gaza strip on Oct. 7, 2023, with the goal of destroying the terrorist group Hamas. Students across the nation have voiced their opposition with the U.S government’s involvement as the conflict has led to more than 30,000 civilians being killed. This has sparked a movement throughout the states with hundreds of college students protesting on campus, making its way to the midwest. 

Newman Abuissa, a transportation engineer working with the Iowa Department of Transportation for 25 years, was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. He explains feeling unrepresented by the U.S. government.

We want the Iowa City voices to be heard, we want to express our opinion that we are not happy with our government participating with the genocide by sending money. [This] does not represent American values, does not represent our democracies, does not represent us,” said Abuissa.

Over the course of three days, these protests offered many activities for students. From art and button-making stations, to poetry and music circles, these students gathered as a community. Among the students, professors demonstrated their support as well. Lisa Heineman, a professor at the University of Iowa, was one of the many featured guest speakers at the event leading an open discussion with her students on the lawn. 

“We’re demanding complete transparency from the University, in any and all kinds of financial dealings that would influence their allegiance to the state of Israel [and] divestment,” said Clara Reinen, a graduate student from the University of Iowa’s library science program.

Many fear these protesters could become violent and disruptive as seen at other universities. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds stated to news reporters law enforcement would be “ready” if these protests were to escalate.

Reinen counters that statement. “We only see these things become violent when the police or counter-protesters make them violent and then you can’t blame people for defending themselves.” 

Among these protests, many bring up the topic of Jewish-Americans and their safety. Reinen makes it clear these protesters do not have hatred towards Jewish people stating, “…criticism of Israel [is] not the same thing as being anti-semitic, [there] are so many Jewish folk who so badly want ceasefire, who so badly want the end of the occupation in Palestine”.

As these students continue to utilize their freedom of assembly, they’re pressing the media to stop addressing this conflict as a war. Reinen explained, “We’re perpetuating the idea that this is a balanced conflict, when really you have one of the largest militaries in the world constantly bombarding an open-air prison. [Stop] calling this the Israel-Hamas war and call it what it is, a genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”

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About the Contributors
Vanessa Litton
Vanessa Litton, Reporter
Vanessa Litton is a Junior at Liberty High school and this is her first year with the Liberty Live Wire. She is an environmental and civil rights activist who is always keeping up with the latest issues. Outside of school she enjoys, reading, writing, and listening to music.
Addison Pirkl
Addison Pirkl, Website Manager
This is Addison's second year on staff as a Website Manager, and she spends most of her time drawing, writing, and having her nose stuck in a book...