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The Captain's Log

The Captain's Log

The Student News Site of Christopher Newport University

The Captain's Log

The Captain's Log

CNU for Palestine mobilizes demonstrators

Students and community members take to the street
The Pro-Palestine CNU protest, photo by Evelyn Davidson

Several dozen people gathered on the corner of Warwick Boulevard and University Place in support of Palestine on Tuesday evening. The crowd, a mix of CNU students and those not affiliated with the university, held signs that said “From the River to the Sea,” “Free Palestine,” “Your Silence is Loud,” and “Divest from Genocide Call for Ceasefire.” 


“It’s something that every person, especially students, should be aware of what’s going on, because we’re going to be inheriting this world,” CNU alumnus Kronos Lewis told The Captain’s Log.

Kronos Lewis holding a sign at the demonstration

While at CNU, Lewis served as the president of CNU’s faith-based organization for Jewish students, Hillel.

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Lewis, donning a medical mask and holding a hand-written sign that said, “Palestine Will Be Free,” stood side-by-side with others who waved the Palestinian flag and wore masks, due to concerns about safety and privacy.


The pro-Palestine attendees were mobilized by a CNUforPalestine Instagram account, which began posting a few days before the protest. One Instagram post called on people to “show solidarity to those affected by ongoing genocide” by attending a sit in, marching around campus and holding a candelight vigil.


Another post, published on the day of the protest reads, “We are a decentralized organizations of STUDENTS who DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO GET PERMISSION TO SAY GENOCIDE IS BAD WHEN FINISHING FINALS.”


The Captain’s Log reached out to the CNUforPalestine Instagram account prior to the demonstration for a statement from the protest organizer, who wished to remain anonymous, but shared that they are a CNU senior, graduating this May with a degree in social work. They explained that they were inspired to hold a protest on CNU campus after attending a protest in Norfolk last Saturday, organized by Hampton Roads for Palestine.


“We intend to make art, connect with others, and show support for the people of Palestine. As the school year ends today, we did not want to miss the chance to gather together in solidarity with the international struggle,” the CNUforPalestine organizer said in a written statement. “We are committed to justice in the face of repression.”

The organizer also noted that they hoped CNU would not mirror the “folly of other institutions” and that people will find more ways to unite if administration and law enforcement did not allow them to have a “peaceful gathering for justice.” 


“CNU admin and PD should choose to be on the right side of history, we will be regardless,” they wrote. 


Both Newport News and CNU Police cars were parked off of Warwick Boulevard and officers were dispersed throughout campus.


“CNU has the lead here; we are just here in support. Make sure everyone is safe, and if they need anything, we’re here for that,” Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew told The Captain’s Log. 

Newport News Police, photo by Evelyn Davidson

Drew, with other officers, stood off to the side, watching demonstrators gather on The Great Lawn, in front of Christopher Newport Hall.


When the protest began, around 7 p.m., the sprinklers were active and the CNU Public Webcam, which livestreams The Great Lawn, was offline. 


CNU’s Chief Communications Officer, Jim Hanchett, explained, in an email to the campus community prior to the Tuesday afternoon protest, that university administration had contacted the “group not affiliated with the University” for more information about the protest. In addition, Hanchett stated that the university would be adhering to its policies for “Use of University Facilities” by members of the university community, affiliated organizations and third parties. 


According to university policy, “Affiliated individuals are faculty and staff seeking to use University Facilities for purposes unrelated to their work for the University, current members of the boards of affiliated organizations, or lifelong donors with commitments and gifts of 250,000 or more” and affiliated organizations are “Any organization legally separate from CNU, formally established solely to provide support to CNU or any CNU program and recognized by CNU…”


For members of the university community, the policy states that, “All outdoor spaces are available to students for expressive activities subject to the conditions established by this policy and any other reasonable time, place and manner restrictions as might be deemed necessary by the University.”


The policy continues by stating the scheduling requirements of such spaces, “Such use of outdoor areas should be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance, if possible, in order to avoid interference with or disruption of ordinary, routine, or previously scheduled activities and to ensure safety and health.”


The policy also outlines rules for use of The Great Lawn, “The Great Lawn is available to be scheduled only as a whole, and only for university-wide events, such as graduation, fall festival, admitted freshman day and similar occasions. Other outdoor spaces are available for scheduled use by the University Community.”


Although the demonstration was originally supposed to occur on The Great Lawn in the center of campus, protesters dispersed when university administrators informed them that they could not occupy that space. 


“You have the right to peacefully protest, you have the right to peacefully assemble,”  Black Lives Matter 757 leader Japharii Jones can be seen telling protesters and bystanders over a megaphone, in a video posted on BLM757’s Instagram. “So if they’re going to push you all off of this quote on quote private campus, we can easily take this protest to the street.”

Japharii Jones, leader of Black Lives Matter 757

CNU is a public university, founded in 1960 as an extension of William & Mary.


Shortly after, Jones was approached by CNU’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Kevin Hughes who told him, “We can help you have a protest on campus if you want to have a protest on campus. There is a way to do it, but [you] haven’t followed that policy yet.”


Hughes informed Jones that campus spaces need to be reserved in advance and reaffirmed that demonstrators can be on the sidewalk as it is public property. 


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Jones told The Captain’s Log, after he and others moved the demonstration to Warwick Boulevard.


“It’s not ‘our fight,’ but we’re an ally, so we offer assistance,” added Jones, who said he has kept in close contact with other pro-Palestinian organizations throughout virginia.


A local pro-Israel congregation also held a counter-protest further down Warwick. 

Pro-Israel protesters from Congregation Zion’s Sake

“We learned from Nazi Germany that aggression, hatred and racism, anti-semitism has to be countered,” said Rabbi Eric Carlson of Congregation Zion’s Sake in Newport News. 


Carlson and his congregation organized a protest after hearing about the Pro-Palestine protest at CNU. 


“We’re here this evening, just to say the people of Israel…  won’t be moved. We’re here in the community and we won’t tolerate hatred or anti-semitism,” Carlson added.


Once the pro-Palestine demonstration had shifted away from the center of campus, the number of protesters increased. 


Pro-Palestine demonstrators chanted in unison phrases, such as “Palestine will be free,” “Palestine will never die”  and “Everytime the media lies, another person in Gaza dies.”


At one point, a man could be seen in a video posted by Jones, telling the pro-Palestine protesters that “Jesus was a Jew.” Shortly after Jones and the individual were separated by Chief of Police Drew.


“If we don’t speak up for [the Palestinians], who will?” said Haifa Amin, who is not affiliated with CNU. 

Haifa Amin holding the flag of Palestine

Amin held the Palestinian flag and stood in solidarity with the other protesters.


The demonstration ended with the placement of green and red candles for a vigil in honor of the Palestinians and a peaceful march down Warwick Boulevard, towards J. Clyde Avenue. 


“I am not the leader of this, I am one voice of the community who contributed what I could,” the organizer of CNUforPalestine told The Captain’s Log on Instagram following Tuesday’s demonstration.

All photos taken by Evelyn Davidson

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