The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Over 100 people gather on Pentacrest to protest Israel-Hamas war

Sahithi Shankaiahgari
Event organizers lead a march following a protest supporting to end the occupation of Palestine in Downtown Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. (Sahithi Shankaiahgari/The Daily Iowan)

Over 100 of University of Iowa students and residents gathered on the Pentacrest Saturday to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The group was protesting in solidarity with Palestine, which has had over 9,000 casualties since the war’s outbreak, according to the Associated Press. Roughly 1,400 Israelis have died so far in the war.

The protest started around 1 p.m., with the attendees standing on the Pentacrest listening to different speakers, many of whom are Palestinian, talk about the effects of the war. 

Speakers spoke about how the war had affected their families, as many still have relatives living in Palestine currently. Others touched on how the U.S. government, especially President Joe Biden, was not doing enough to support the Palestinians.

Speakers also talked about how elected officials in Iowa have expressed support for Israel since the beginning of the conflict. This includes Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who has been critical of colleges that allow pro-Palestine protests, and on Oct. 26 wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Education to investigate cases of antisemitism on campuses.

They were also led in different chants by one of the event organizers, Mimi Daoud.

While most were there in support of and participating in the protest, first-year student Itai Ben-Shahar said he was there to gauge the sentiment toward Jewish people on the UI campus.

“I have friends at other universities that have been beat up, been yelled at, been pushed, and just assaulted in general, put up posters of the kidnapped and have seen them torn down,” Ben-Shahar said. “I just wanted to see what their sentiment was and see what signs would be brought here.”

Some of the signs being held included phrases such as “The U of I has blood on its hands,” “Say no to genocide,” and “Free Palestine,” among others.

Iowa City resident Ahmend Ahmoudi said he was there to protest the occupation of Palestine by Israel and Israel’s killing of innocent women and children.

“If there is no peace for Palestine, if there is no freedom, they will never stop,” Ahmoudi said. “We struggle until we get our freedom.”

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Around 2 p.m., after an hour spent chanting and listening to speakers, protest organizers led the group on a march through downtown Iowa City, first heading down South Clinton Street, then crossing over to East Burlington, going up South Linn Street, then onto Iowa Avenue to return to the Pentacrest.

During this time, protestors alternated between a few chants — including “Free, free Palestine” and “From the rivers to the sea, Palestine will be free,” among others —  holding their signs high in the air while cheering on any cars that honked in their direction. Along the route were Iowa City residents who simply watched, some eating at a restaurant while others were walking through the city. 

See more from the protest:

Upon returning to the Pentacrest, the protestors continued alternating between different chants until roughly 3:30 p.m., the chants interspersed by the occasional car horn.

Before the protest concluded, Daoud delivered some closing remarks to the group. She called upon the group to call their representatives to send letters to the White House and said the fight would end there.

Daoud said after the protest that a goal of the protest was to encourage elected representatives to support Palestine and also retract their support of Israel for its occupation of Palestine. She also said she felt great seeing the number of people who showed up to participate, and hopes that such support will continue.

“We often see in movements that a lot of people will show up to a really big protest … and then that support slowly dwindled out as people forgot about it or got lazier, it became an inconvenience to their daily lives,” Daoud said. “What I hope is that this does not become an inconvenience to the average person and that the Palestinian lives that are being killed in Gaza continue to be a priority for the people living in Iowa.”

She also talked about the “from the river to the sea chant,” which was recently the subject of controversy after three members of the University Democrats at Iowa posted a statement with the phrase but swiftly removed the post after receiving backlash from the Iowa Democratic Party.

In the days since its posting, the members involved in the statement have received calls to resign, with the Iowa Democrats Chair Rita Hart releasing a statement condemning the use of the phrase. The Iowa State University College Democrats on Thursday elected to disaffiliate with the Iowa Democratic Party because of its stance on the issue.

Daoud said she supported the three students and believed that the chant should not be interpreted as a call for the genocide of Jewish people.

“We know that Jewish people deserve freedom and liberation and they do not deserve to be genocided. What we do not support is the existence of an occupying state that is genociding the Palestinians,” Daoud said. “ I do not believe it is an antisemitic rhetoric, antisemitic statement; we believe it is fully anti-Zionist.”

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About the Contributor
Alejandro Rojas
Alejandro Rojas, News Editor
Alejandro Rojas is The Daily Iowan's news editor. He previously worked as a news reporter covering Johnson County and was the summer executive editor in 2023. He is a senior, double majoring in journalism and political science.