On November 9, students in Montreal organized a walk out in solidarity with the people of Gaza in response to calls for a national day of shutdown for Palestine were made by groups, including the Palestinian Youth Movement in the US and Canada.
Cheers and waving flags resonated throughout campus on Thursday afternoon as hundreds of students from McGill, Concordia and UDeM, as well as different CEGEPs, gathered at the Y-intersection in downtown Montreal calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza strip.
The rally was originally slated to take place at the intersection of Guy Street and Maisonneuve Boulevard near Concordia University, but the location was changed after an altercation took place in the university’s Hall Building between Jewish and Palestinian student groups. The Concordia administration addressed this violent incident in an email, expressing concern about the rise in acts of intimidation motivated by Islamophobia and antisemitism throughout campus and around the city.
In light of Israel’s continued assault on Gaza, more than 500 students and demonstrators made their way to the Roddick Gates and continued to the entrance of Scotiabank on Sherbrooke Street where they joined another pro-Palestine demonstration. Speeches were given by different organizations and speakers, expressing their support for Palestinians, condemning all forms of oppression, and celebrating student activism.
Leaders of the rally said they were inspired by the turnout and encouraged the crowd not to lose hope. “The more we are silenced, the more we will continue to fight and the more people will be drawn to our cause” said one of them. Another speaker echoed “do you really think that a population as resilient as Palestinians will be silenced?”
Salma, a McGill graduate student, spoke out about “the beauty, the resilience and the strength of a united student front for justice.” “Let me make one thing clear,” she said. “Do you know why administrators feel the need to condemn student solidarity? Because they know that student activism works! That student awareness works!”
Her powerful speech continued by recalling the multiple campaigns successfully carried out by students. “It was students like you that forced McGill to divest from the apartheid in South Africa 38 years ago this month,” she said.
As the voices of students rose, chanting “the students, united, will never be defeated!” or “Free, free Palestine,” hands raised in applause and held up signs saying “Ceasefire Now. Stop the Genocide.”
A speaker from Independent Jewish Voices McGill also took the stage to reaffirm that “all forms of oppression of Jewish or Muslim students were inherently linked.” They then called for an end to the violence, intoning: “How can anyone with a conscience try to silence activists for human rights?”
Despite the cold weather and snow, students stood together behind the Palestinian flag and marched towards Scotiabank, continuously calling for peace as well as official recognition of the genocide and apartheid currently being enacted towards the Palestinian people of Gaza. The rally persisted in front of the Scotiabank, as the bank is a prime target of the Canadian Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement. They are a major shareholder in Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturer, whose weapons are frequently used against Palestinians. Students have persistently criticized their universities for investing in companies associated with Israeli arms production, accusing the administration of complicity in the ongoing genocide.
Over the past month, student groups all over the world have been organizing and using their voices to advocate for the respect of human rights and decency, rising together to use their right to speak up for Palestinians.
Similar events in support of an end of violence in Gaza will continue to be organised by organizations such as the Palestinian Youth Movement Montreal and Independent Jewish Voices McGill.