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 march on UI campus during commencement ceremony

The protest coincided with the UI College of Law commencement ceremony at Hancher Auditorium.
Jack Moore
Pro-Palestine protesters march toward the University of Iowa Pentacrest from Hancher Auditorium on May 10, 2024.

Over 30 pro-Palestine protesters gathered at the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium on Friday amid Israel’s invasion of Rafah and ongoing national college protests. 

The protest coincided with the UI College of Law commencement at Hancher. 

The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began after Hamas launched a surprise attack in Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, which resulted in the death of 1,200 people and 250 people taken hostage. Currently, there are over 100 people still held hostage in Gaza as of May 3.

Following the attack, Israel has continued to bomb and invade the Gaza Strip. Over the last six months, Gaza’s Ministry of Health reports over 34,500 civilians have died since the invasion. 

The protest was organized by the group Iowans For Palestine. Protesters gathered at the front of Hancher Auditorium at 3 p.m. while law students were leaving their commencement ceremony. 

The protesters chanted various phrases such as “Free, free Palestine,” “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go,” and “We will not stop, we will not rest.”

About five Iowa State Patrol police were outside the auditorium during the protest. UI graduate student Clara Reynen, who helped organize the event, said at the protest it is important to have people aware of what’s happening in Gaza.

“We shouldn’t let people live in a false sense of reality and just assume that everything is okay because we can’t ignore what’s happening here,” Reynen said.

Reynen said the decision to protest during the commencement ceremony was to spread awareness that children and students in Gaza won’t be graduating because of the war that has engulfed the territory.

“There are more than 14,000 children who will not get to finish school. They won’t graduate. They won’t celebrate with their friends and family and take pictures in front of Herky the Hawk,” Reynen said. “We have a duty to remind people what’s going on and not let people fall into a sense of complicity.”

The United Nations reported on April 29 that 14,500 children have died since the onset of the war. Most schools in Gaza have been damaged, The New York Times reported on Monday. 

While outside Hancher, the protesters demonstrated a “die-in,” an act of protest in which people lay on the ground and assume the position of a dead body. Reynen said many of the protesters participating in the die-in are connected to the medical school at the UI.

“It’s been really hard for them to see the number of medical professionals [in Gaza] — whether it be doctors, nurses, employees at the hospital — who have been put at risk or killed,” Reynen said.

The U.N. called for an investigation of Israel after mass graves were discovered in late April at two hospitals recently raided by Israel Defense Forces.

At around 3:30 p.m., hundreds of attendees of the law school commencement began to pour out of Hancher. Police divided the protesters and attendees as they were leaving.

At approximately 4 p.m., the protesters began marching to the UI Pentacrest. The group circled the Old Capitol two times before stopping at the corner of Clinton Street and Washington Street. At the corner, two counter-protesters in support of Israel talked with protesters about how Hamas started the war and how people should think about the hostages still there.

“I think Jews are being singled out,” counterprotester Jeff Hersh said. “I don’t support everything Israel is doing, what they’re doing is ignoring Oct. 7.”

The protest dispersed around 4:30 p.m. and everyone left peacefully. No police officers were near the protest after they marched from Hancher Auditorium. 

Reynen said part of the goal of the protest was to spread awareness of Israel’s promise to invade Rafah to destroy Hamas. 

RELATED: First pro-Palestine encampment on UI campus shut down by police

Over 1.3 million people have gathered in the city of Rafah, which is on the border of Gaza and Egypt. Israel has vowed to invade the city, labeling it as one of the last strongholds of Hamas. 

The U.S. has expressed concern that an invasion of Rafah will intensify the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. On Thursday, the U.S. denied a shipment of bombs to deter Israel from invading the city. The U.S. has sent tens of thousands of weapons to Israel since the beginning of the war.

Following the statement from the U.S., Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country will stand alone to defeat Hamas.

“If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone. If we need to, we will fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than fingernails,” Netanyahu said in a statement Thursday.

Another pro-Palestine protest is scheduled for noon on Sunday at Hubbard Park.

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About the Contributor
Jack Moore
Jack Moore, News Editor
Jack Moore is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is from Cedar Rapids Iowa. Along with working at The Daily Iowan, Jack works for the University of Iowa's UI-REACH program as a Resident Assistant. UI-REACH is a program for students with learning, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities intended to provide support to these students throughout their college experience. Additionally, Jack is involved in Iowa City's live music scene as he plays bass for local Iowa City band "Two Canes."