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

Pro-Palestine protesters call on Miller-Meeks, Speaker Johnson for an end of U.S. aid to Israel

Led by Iowans for Palestine, protesters requested Congressional members call for a ceasefire, and to divest from Israel.
Grace Smith
City High School seniors Penelope Wilmoth and Vivian Shields yell a chant during a pro-Palestinian demonstration to demand a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas War at the Courtyard by Marriott in Iowa City, Iowa, on Sunday, April 28, 2024. Hundreds of pro-Palestinian supporters from Iowans for Palestine and several other activist groups demonstrated outside while U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, spoke inside the hotel for a campaign fundraiser.

More than 200 pro-Palestine protesters lined the bridge outside the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in University Heights outside of U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’, R-Iowa, campaign reception with U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson on Sunday afternoon. 

Waving Palestinian flags, protesters chanted “Mike Johnson, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” and called for a permanent ceasefire, the end of sending aid to Israel, and U.S. divestment from Israeli companies. 

Learn More:

Mimi Daoud, an organizer of the protest and member of Iowans for Palestine, led chants for nearly three hours and said the protest may not result in the outcome they were calling for, but they will continue to advocate for change. 

“At the end, of course, we want a ceasefire,” Daoud said. “Will that necessarily come from this protest? No, but like we’ve been saying, we will not stop and we will not rest until we get a ceasefire in Gaza.”

RELATED: Read more coverage of U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson’s visit here.

Newman Abuissa, chair of the Arab American Caucus in the Iowa Democratic Party and member of Iowans for Palestine, helped organize the event and wanted the protest to let Johnson and Miller-Meeks know that “spending our money on genocide is not acceptable.” 

“This is not the America that we stand for, this is not the America we want,” Abuissa said. “We’re not happy with our governments supporting blindly without any restrictions on Israel. And that’s why we are here [to] let them know that they are supporting genocide. We support justice.” 

Sparked by Columbia University’s response to a pro-Palestinian encampment, where more than 100 arrests were made after the university called in the New York Police Department, similar protests and encampments have spread across over 40 college campuses. 

Although the protests remain peaceful, hundreds of students and outside protestors in the U.S. have been arrested. Many encampments have been forcibly cleared by police, such as Emerson College in Boston, with a video showing police beating protesters

The University of Iowa Police Department arrested nine pro-Palestine protesters who chained themselves to the doors of Kinnick Stadium in December. 

Those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct, trespassing causing damage greater than $200, and interference with official acts.

At Sunday’s protest, temperamental weather did not deter the protesters as they held signs reading “No genocide on our dime,” and “Stop aiding genocide.” Lining the sidewalk on both sides of the Melrose Street  bridge, they held up a speaker toward the hotel and chanted “Justice is our demand, no peace on stolen land.” 

“Our eyes are on Gaza, and that’s why we are here, because of what’s going on in Gaza,” Abuissa said. “We have massacres happening every day for children, every day, happening today and yesterday and probably tomorrow if those guys don’t stop the genocide.” 

Penelope Wilmoth, a senior at Iowa City City High School, spoke to the crowd, reading off biographies of many children killed in the conflict. According to a March 18 report by Reuters, the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, estimated that Israel’s offensive killed 13,000 children killed in the conflict so far. 

“I’m here for every single child in Gaza, every single child who has been found in these mass graves, in the rubble of bombings by Israel,” Wilmoth said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “I’m here for every single mother holding her child in her arms and every single father looking for flour and food for his family.” 

Wilmoth said Johnson and Miller-Meeks are “morally unsound” and do not represent the beliefs of their constituents. 

The protesters shouted “Shame on you” as Iowa State Patrol police cars escorted Johnson and Miller-Meeks off the premises. 

UI students and Iowa City residents have called for a ceasefire since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, 2023, with weekly Friday protests on the Pentacrest.

This fall, pro-Palestine protesters sent letters to UI President Barbara Wilson asking for a statement condemning anti-Palestinian rhetoric, among other requests. 

Owain Weinert, a UI third-year creative writing student, said he has attended the weekly protests for the past six weeks. He joined Sunday’s protest because of the images of the conflict he has seen on social media sites and in the news. 

“If you’re seeing the pictures I’ve seen — that anyone can see on any news channel, on any social media site — if you see those pictures of bombed children, of children missing limbs, of mothers and fathers clutching their infants dead together, you can’t do anything but this,” Weinert said. “You can’t do anything but scream as loud as you fu**ing can, ‘stop it as soon as possible, as soon as possible.’”

Weinert said he would like to see control of Palestine returned to Palestinians, and no more money sent from the U.S. to Israel. 

Miller-Meeks: “It’s important for us to stand by our allies” 

Miller-Meeks said protesters are unwilling to have the hard conversations that it takes to govern and instead want to shout “about hatred of Jews and hatred of the existence of a country.” 

Miller-Meeks said the $95 billion foreign aid package signed into law on April 24 that included aid to Israel is not to support an “unending conflict,” but to provide humanitarian aid. 

“I am saying that we will continue to push Israel to make sure that they limit any harm to civilians, that they continue to allow access to humanitarian aid, but who is stopping humanitarian aid right now?” Miller-Meeks said. “It’s Hamas, who is using innocent Palestinians as human shields. It is Hamas.” 

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Roxy Ekberg
Roxy Ekberg, Politics Reporter
Roxy Ekberg is a first year at the University of Iowa. In the Honors Program, she is double majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. Prior to her role as a politics reporter, she worked news reporter at the Daily Iowan and worked at her local newspaper The Wakefield Republican.
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.