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The Monarch Times

Students Protest for Palestine

On December 11, 2023, dozens of student protestors marched across Mt. Eden High School. They demanded a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Students from Impact Academy of Arts and Technology and Mt. Eden collaborated to challenge the United States’ veto against the United Nations’ call for a humanitarian ceasefire. “Israel bombs, USA pays. How many kids have we killed today?” was one of several slogans used by the protestors. 

The protest was part of a global strike for Palestinian solidarity. “The purpose was to spread awareness and promote the Hayward Students for Justice in Palestine so we could get more people to join and help organize. We’re aiming to get a ceasefire resolution passed in Hayward City Council,” said protest leader Cliantha Gerez, senior at Mt. Eden. “We’re all seeing the atrocities happen online as [have] never been done before,” he emphasized.

Cliantha Gerez (12) and Isylene Sunit (12) leading the protesters. (Elisandra Hampton)

Isylene Sunit, another protest leader, believes there is a power imbalance between Palestinians and Israelis. “It’s true that both sides are facing conflict right now, but at least Israel has water and healthcare, while people in Gaza have trouble getting clean food and their hospitals are bombed,” she said. The protestors hope that their actions inspire other students to act. “People should contact local government officials and demand a ceasefire,” said Sunit.

After Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, the Israeli government retaliated by bombing and blockading the Gaza Strip. A humanitarian crisis has followed as food, water, and health services have become scarce in Gaza. As of January 2024, there have been over 25,000 Palestinian and 1,500 Israeli deaths.

Protests and boycotts against Israel have occurred nationwide in American colleges and schools. These students demand peace in Gaza and argue that Israel is targeting civilians in a genocide. A backlash has mounted among college administrators toward student protestors, claiming that their actions constitute antisemitism and justify atrocities committed by Hamas.

Jadyn Edwards (12) rallies students for a ceasefire. (Elisandra Hampton)

Site administrators permitted the protest and many teachers received the students positively. “Ms. Walton was in that little golf cart with us in solidarity. Most staff have been very supportive,” added Gerez. Michael Bazeley, HUSD’s Director of Public Information and Relations, publicly defended the protestors’ actions under the justification of free speech.

Steven Elliott, a Mt. Eden teacher, agreed that student protests are protected under freedom of expression, but expressed concern over some of the slogans used: “There were a few controversial phrases that people may find offensive, like ‘From the river to the sea’.” Elliott also mentioned that the administration’s response to the protest could be perceived as inconsistent with their opposition to an antisemitism awareness week last school year. He suggested that their actions could tie into the larger issue of anti-Jewish sentiment on campus.

The protestors challenged the idea that their actions were antisemitic. “I want to make it very clear, we are not showing any hate towards Jewish people at all. You could hear no mention of Jewish people at the protest. [The demonstration] was toward ourselves, the U.S., because we have no place fighting a war like that. We were just showing support towards the innocent lives lost there,” said Mt. Eden junior La’Nya Friday.

“What’s happening right now will be remembered in history books,” said Jamila Hayes, an Impact Academy teacher, to an audience of students. “All of our actions matter, and all of our actions count. As U.S. citizens, we are responsible for speaking up against what’s going on if it’s unjust.”

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About the Contributor
Elisandra Hampton, Copy Editor, Formatting Editor
My name is Elisandra Hampton and I am the Copy Editor and Formatting Editor of The Monarch Times for the 2023-24 school year. I joined The Monarch Times last year and I am dedicated to writing quality articles. I was born in Hayward, raised in Hayward, and plan to die in Hayward. My hobbies include drawing, reading, and spending hours on Instagram Reels. I hope I can continue creating informative content this year.  
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