Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

University of Alabama “Protest for Palestinian Lives” draws hundreds of students, counterprotesters

CW / Riley Thompson
Anti-war protesters demonstrate at Student Center Plaza Wednesday.

Editor’s note: This story contains usage of profanities some readers may find offensive. A quote in this story was updated for clarity May 2.

Hundreds gathered at the Student Center Plaza as the UA Leftist Collective led its “Protest for Palestinian Lives” Wednesday from 4-6:30 p.m. The crowd also included over 100 counterprotesters and spectators. 

International pressure has been growing on Israel to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza and agree to a ceasefire after Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas and other groups that killed over 1200 Israelis and took over 240 hostage. 

Israel’s offensive has killed over 34,000 people and displaced over 1.7 million. The region now faces the threat of famine. 

The demands made by Leftist Collective include that the University cut ties with Lockheed Martin; rename Hewson Hall, which is named after UA alum and former CEO of Lockheed Martin Marillyn Hewson; disclose investments made using UA’s endowment fund; stop conducting research funded by the Department of Defense; and release a public statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

“Hey hey, ho ho, Lockheed Martin’s got to go,” the protestors shouted, denouncing the defense contracting company they say is supporting a genocide in Gaza by selling munitions to Israel. 

The University of Alabama maintains close ties with the company, the student group said. The University accepted a $15 million gift from Hewson in 2018, has hosted Lockheed recruiting events and placed Hewson on the Culverhouse Board of Visitors.

Leftist Collective’s other claims of supposed ties to Lockheed Martin could not be independently verified by The Crimson White, as UA Assistant Director of Communications Alex House did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Students and faculty composed the majority of the anti-war protestors.

“I’m here protesting for a ceasefire in Gaza and protesting that the University take economic action,” said Kovals Petrauskas, a freshman majoring in political science. 

Isabella Cornelius, a junior majoring in news media, was one of several speakers supporting Palestine. Cornelius cited the nearly 100 journalists that have been killed in the Israel-Gaza war.  

“Their only so-called crime was being journalists in occupied Palestine,” Cornelius said. 

The counter protesters, many of whom donned or carried Israeli, American, or Trump 2024 flags, chanted in response to those protesting the war.

“F— Joe Biden,” “F— Hamas,” “USA, USA, USA,” and other chants were regularly lodged at the Gaza demonstrators, along with occasional homophobic slurs and other derisive comments. 

One student at the forefront of the counterprotest was freshman philosophy major Rick Rosenthal.

Rosenthal said the Leftist Collective demonstration was supporting Hamas and terrorism. Leftist Collective denied supporting Hamas and antisemitism in Instagram statements.

“I’m a proud Jewish American, and these people are supporting the killing of Jewish people,” Rosenthal said.

Several Jewish students on both sides of the protest were not comfortable speaking on the record, and one specifically cited safety concerns.

Israeli Rutgers University student Sam Artman said he joined the counterprotest with his girlfriend, a UA student, to support Israel after spending three months volunteering there. He wore a chain that conveyed his Jewish heritage.

“I just wanted to show that Jewish people, we can’t be afraid of what’s happening,” Artman said. “They want us to hide, they want us to tuck away our chains, … but … to be strong is to show your face and to show you’re not scared about it.”

Artman said that similar protests are happening at Rutgers and that he recently had a hostile encounter with protesters who “got in his face” after he tried to stop them from tearing down signs. 

“Students … felt the sentiment was against them, and being anti-Zionist as being anti-Semitic,” said Rabbi Kussi Lipskier of UA Chabad. Lipskier said he attended to support Jewish students and also pray, wrapping Jewish students in phylacteries as a religious observance.

Lipskier said that Jewish students did not come to scream, but instead to remain rooted in their values. He said some of the things that counterprotesters were yelling were not helpful.

“They’re not trying to, God forbid, they’re not trying to kill any Palestinians,” Lipskier said of the Israeli military. He said that Israel sought only to defend itself and root out Hamas, calling the idea that Israel was an oppressor of Palestinians a “fake narrative.”

Similar protests have been sweeping the nation after Columbia University students set up an anti-war encampment on April 17. Many protestors were arrested for refusing to leave the encampment.

No one was arrested at the UA protest Wednesday, and it remained peaceful throughout its entirety. At the time of publication, it was unclear if the University had conversed with the anti-war protestors regarding their demands.



More to Discover