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Students call for UNR to disclose and divest from Israel 

Date:

By Lizzie Ramirez

Amid national protests happening at universities across the country, students at the University of Nevada, Reno, gathered in front of the Knowledge Center on May 8, calling for UNR to disclose investments and divest from Israel.

The protest began at 2 p.m. on the lawn in front of the KC with roughly 100 attendees. Bystanders approaching from the Whalen Parking Garage were greeted with a large sign that said “Rosen + Cortez Masto, their death will be your legacy.”

According to users on YikYak, an app where students can make anonymous posts, they could hear the protesters from inside the library while they were studying for finals. 

“Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest,” protesters chanted. 

University spokesperson Scott Walquist did not provide an answer as to whether UNR has investments in Israel. In a written response, Walquist said, “Our campus is a place where acceptance, understanding and diversity of perspectives and experiences are welcomed,” adding that since the onset of the conflict, UNR officials have remained “impartial and actively engaged in regular dialogues with both our Muslim and Jewish students.” 

“In regards to the protests, the University is committed to the goal of fostering the acquisition of knowledge and the critical importance of the diversity of ideas,” he continued, noting that peaceful demonstrations are part of the academic environment and the free exchange of ideas — so long as campus policies and state and local laws are followed.

The protesters garnered many watchers –– UNR faculty specifically, who were standing at the sides watching the protest. There were also counter-protesters standing in front of the group supporting Palestine. One man was wearing overalls with the United States flag plastered on it while also holding a US flag. 

After about 30 minutes of the students’ chants, the students began marching away from the KC, passing the famous Nevada N sign many incoming students take pictures in front of.

Those watching quickly followed. Faculty, students, the counter-protesters and cops from the UNR police department followed behind the protesters while keeping their distance. 

“We are not anti-Jewish. We are anti-genocide.”

When the protesters were passing the Raggio building, there were students playing volleyball and spikeball in the grass. Despite being in a group of people playing sports, two students immediately joined the protest, beginning to yell the chants in unison with everyone else. 

“Free free Palestine,” the students yelled. “Viva viva Palestina!”

The students made their way through campus, disrupting seniors from taking their graduation photos by the Mackay Statue. The seniors stopped to watch the protesters march past the closed-off quad. 

There were rumblings from the bystanders that the students were marching to university president Brian Sandoval’s office. 

And that is exactly where they ended up — at the Clark Administration building which houses the president’s office, the provost’s office and many other offices of those who oversee the campus. 

It wasn’t long before curtains from Sandoval’s office were seen closing. 

“Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest,” protesters continued to chant outside the building. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”

More cops were surrounding the protest now with faculty watching from a farther distance than before. More counter-protesters also arrived. 

Amid national protests happening at universities across the country, students from the University of Nevada, Reno, protested on May 8, 2024, calling for UNR to disclose investments and divest from Israel. Photo courtesy of Kia Rastar and used with permission.
Amid national protests happening at universities across the country, students from the University of Nevada, Reno, protested on May 8, 2024, calling for UNR to disclose investments and divest from Israel. Photo courtesy of Kia Rastar and used with permission.

One followed who was wearing shorts with the U.S. flag on it and a shirt saying “I <3 being Jewish.” 

Additionally, a female wearing a tote bag emblazoned with “Jewish” posed and took a photo in front of the protesters. 

More signs being held toward the administration building said “Cowards KILL, the brave SAVE. Which one are you?”

The students stayed in front of the administration building for roughly an hour. One chant was specifically directed at Sandoval.

“Sandoval you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide,” the students yelled. 

In June 2017, when Sandoval was Nevada’s governor, he signed into law a bill that would ban state investment in or contracts with for-profit companies that boycott Israel. Nevada was one of 20 states at the time that had what’s called anti-BDS laws, short for boycott, divestment and sanctions. There are now 38 states with anti-BDS laws on the books.

In the middle of the protest, students were invited to come up and speak their thoughts on Palestine. Some called out the bystanders, shouting, “Neutrality is violence,” while others spoke to the counter-protesters. 

“Speaking to the counter-protesters…” a student spoke, “If there was a genocide happening with the Jewish people right now like what’s happening in Palestine, we’d be showing up for y’all too.”

Protesters yelled in support after this speech. 

“We are not anti-Jewish. We are anti-genocide,” the student continued and more cheers followed. 

The crowd was slowly growing throughout the individual speeches, with more students showing up and making the group larger. 

After an hour, the group began to move again and marched from the administration building to Virginia Street. Despite UNRPD motioning for the students to stay on the sidewalk, they quickly moved onto the road. 

Amid national protests happening at universities across the country, students from the University of Nevada, Reno, protested on May 8, 2024, calling for UNR to disclose investments and divest from Israel. Lizzie Ramirez / THIS IS RENO.
Amid national protests happening at universities across the country, students from the University of Nevada, Reno, protested on May 8, 2024, calling for UNR to disclose investments and divest from Israel. Lizzie Ramirez / THIS IS RENO.

UNRPD was immediately seen calling for backup as the crowd took to the streets. Police cars were blocking the streets while other cops were seen directing traffic so they wouldn’t hit the students. 

Students kept a steady march and police followed closely, keeping other vehicles at a distance. 

While the group was passing the Nevada Living Learning Community, a residence hall for freshmen, a white man in a pickup truck was seen flipping off the protesters as he drove by. 

“We will free Palestine,” the students yelled. 

As the march continued, other students could be seen watching from their apartment windows and balconies at The Dean, a student apartment complex across from the university gym. 

The march eventually turned back onto campus while police kept directing traffic away from the students. The students returned to their original spot where the protest first started: on the lawn in front of the KC. 

Once the protesters made it back to their starting point they were seen handing each other water bottles while still chanting. Faculty and the counter-protesters followed the students back to the lawn, now standing behind the protest at a distance. 

“Palestine, we shall not be moved,” students slowly sang, followed by a steady beat of claps. 

As the protest was coming to an end, after two-and-a-half hours, students made speeches. 

“Where is the money going? Isn’t this supposed to be a university? Why is our money going towards a genocide? Free Palestine!” one said.

At about 4:25 p.m. students were encouraging each other to use the buddy system to get back home safely before the group disbursed. 

There was no violence during the protest.

Lizzie Ramirez is a graduate student from the Reynolds School of Journalism with an expected graduation date of December 2024. She is also a student election correspondent for Teen Vogue.

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