Community and student activists gathered in Downtown Binghamton on Tuesday to protest the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and to demand that Binghamton University implement boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on campus.

The rally, held at the University Downtown Center, was one part of a coordinated “64 Schools Uniting to Divest Now” campaign on March 26 led by SUNY BDS — a group of students, faculty and staff across the state campus system uniting to “[bring] an end to SUNY’s relationship with the state of Israel.” The rally’s primary organizers, Binghamton Solidarity for Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace, partnered with 19 other community and campus organizations, including the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Veterans for Peace, the Feminist Collective and the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier.

“[The] University maintains cultural ties with Israeli institutions that are active in the occupation, and holds lucrative contracts with weapons manufacturers,” organizers wrote in a statement. “They launder the reputation of the Israeli occupation and profit from it at the same time. And they seek to silence those of us who speak out against the genocide of Palestinians. But we will not be silenced. We demand that [BU] end its complicity in the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and that it enact measures to ensure the safety and freedom of Arab, Muslim and anti-Zionist students alike.”

The BDS movement, founded in 2005, advocates for an academic, cultural and financial boycott of Israeli institutions and companies. Consumer boycott targets currently listed include Puma, HP, Chevron and SodaStream.

“While the University encourages members of our community to speak freely, we will not tolerate racism, hatred or bigotry — nor will we tolerate attacks of any kind on individuals or groups, nor incitement to violence,” Ryan Yarosh ‘02, the University’s senior director of media and public relations, wrote in response to Pipe Dream’s questions about organizers’ demands. “The University administration meets consistently with Jewish, Muslim and Palestinian student groups to actively listen to and address concerns.”

As of 7:05 a.m. on March 27, Israel’s military campaign has killed over 32,000 Gazans, and the World Health Organization has warned of an imminent famine. Those at the rally chanted in support of besieged Gazan civilians, including “justice is our demand, no peace on stolen land,” “in our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians” and “Biden, Biden you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

“Our job here today, and every day for that matter, is to make sure that those who try to profiteer off of human suffering and mutilation and extermination, recognize the communities that they were meant to serve, and recognize that we as a community are not going to let this go on any longer,” SJP’s president said to the crowd.

Protesters marched to the federal courthouse, filling the streets and holding up signs reading “Palestinian lives are sacred,” “cease-fire now” and “Palestine begged, the world shrugged and walked away.” They reached Binghamton’s City Hall before returning to the University Downtown Center. A few counter-protesters were present, with one group waving an Israeli flag from a car window as they drove by.

A speaker from the New Yiddish Bund of Binghamton — a student-led Jewish group supporting divestment, increased humanitarian aid for Gaza, the return of Israeli hostages and a permanent cease-fire — mentioned a cease-fire resolution introduced in City Council which will receive a vote on April 10.

The Day of Action, which included a protest at the University at Buffalo and a “die-in” at the University at Albany, comes after 24 student protesters were arrested at Cornell University when they refused to leave an administration building. They were conducting a sit-in, demanding that Cornell divest from Israeli companies. At Stony Brook University, campus police officers arrested nine when protesters staged a sit-in at an administration building following a rally.

“A decision to stand against divestment is a decision to stand against justice,” a representative from the local chapter of the Dissenters, an anti-militarist collective, said. “However, the pursuit of justice requires the ability to hold people accountable. We are here today not just to condemn the heartless violence that has been inflicted on the Palestinian people, but because to stand in solidarity means to move united in action.”

Toward the end of the rally, a banner reading “Gaza must live” was hung from a overpass, which police took down shortly after. A protester responded by saying “the spirit lives within us, it’s not about the fabric.”

A Palestinian speaker emphasized that, although they never considered themselves an activist, staying silent is no longer an option.

“As a Palestinian, I am utterly horrified how my country can support a genocide of my people,” they said. “I used to be afraid to say I was Palestinian. Now I’m ashamed to say I’m American.”