Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill’s Walkout for Palestine

Vivian Hanna
CJ Toledo delivers a speech to the crowd.

On May 1st at 11:00 AM, Foothill students and faculty walked out of their classes to gather at the Cesar Chavez Plaza, the designated “Free Speech Area” on campus. People of varying ethnicities, religions, ages, and experiences came together, donning yarmulkes and keffiyehs alike, carrying signs, and waving Palestinian flags. 

The student-organized peaceful walkout began with a series of chants as present participants waited for more to arrive. The group began chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” continued with “Foothill Foothill listen up, don’t let admin censor us,” “From Stanford to Columbia, we the students stand with Gaza,” and “Resistance is justified, when people are occupied.” 

As the crowd grew, participants with prepared speeches approached the podium; later, the floor was opened to any and all who wished to speak. Several notable speakers went up to share their personal experiences and perspectives on the matter. 

Student Liala Zaray read Dr. Refaat Alareer’s poem, “If I Must Die,” the last piece the Palestinian writer, professor, and activist wrote before he was killed in Gaza. Zaray urged the community to honor his sacrifices, maintaining that “knowledge is power.” 

Student and Opinion Editor of The Script CJ Toledo expressed frustration with the administration’s censorship, stating, “I’ve loved creating [chalk] art on campus, but as soon as my subject matter started referencing the genocide in Gaza, [it] has been consistently censored and erased.” 

Julian Caballero
Trizha Loren Aquino engages with the crowd.

A Jewish international student from Australia expressed his disappointment with the Israeli government’s weaponization of Judaism, condemning them for “presenting the Torah with a knife.”

 Multiple faculty members were in attendance at the walkout. One in particular shared her appreciation for the presence of each individual at the protest, emphasizing the importance of staff involvement and echoing previous speakers’ sentiment that neutrality prevents change. 

A Jewish community member voiced his opinion that anti-Zionism does not equate to anti-Semitism. He shared a story, recounting that he received backlash from local residents after posting a sign in his yard advocating for Palestine. Refusing to be silenced, he placed five more on his property. He stressed his pride in fighting for Palestine, a sentiment shared and applauded by the crowd. 

A number of students took to the podium to voice their appreciation for the event, astonished at the turnout (around 140 people at its peak). A Palestinian student shared that she had previously felt alone on campus due to the college’s silence on the issue. She wiped her eyes as she spoke on the podium, with emotions running high throughout the speeches and many participants being moved to tears. 

While there were no groups actively counter-protesting the walkout, one individual voiced some contrasting opinions. Initially, the crowd was receptive to his points as he argued that the US government is to blame for funding Israel. However, when he went on to state that the “Israeli government is not to blame,” the crowd’s response immediately soured. He continued to claim that nobody cared about the war in Afghanistan and the Iraq War, eliciting a chorus of ‘boos’ from the crowd. 

At this point, students attempted to take the megaphone back from the individual but were met with resistance as he visibly strengthened his grip and continued to speak into it. He was eventually guided off the platform, yelling behind him, “But free speech, right?” “We let you speak, dude” a walkout participant rebutted. 

Regarding demonstration and protest rights, the ACLU states, “Although counter-demonstrators should not be allowed to physically disrupt the event they are protesting, they do have the right to be present and to voice their displeasure.” 

Lynx Coleman
The great blue heron spotted during the walkout.

This counter-demonstrator was not the only surprise guest at the walkout. Watching solemnly in the background was a Great Blue Heron, a bird rarely seen on campus, who had landed around halfway through the event and stayed until its conclusion. Many in the crowd viewed the bird’s presence as a sign since herons are viewed as a good omen across many cultures and religions, symbolizing self-determination, self-reliance, an ability to progress and evolve, purity, transformation, persistence, and longevity.

Hours after the walkout ended, Foothill President Kristina Whalen sent out an email titled, “Roundtable on Student Needs.” The President shared that she would like to hear from students affected by “the events in Gaza” to learn how to aid them in succeeding academically. 

She invited specific students to present their perspectives with her, writing “If you are a Jewish/Israeli student or a Muslim/Palestinian student, please consider attending a special roundtable discussion with the President and a small resource team. Each roundtable will be held separately.” She later stated, “Other students will have opportunities to share their perspectives on Foothill College’s campus climate.” These opportunities were not shared in the email. 

Unsatisfied with the exclusivity of this roundtable, organizers of the event will follow their initial plan to send a set of demands to Foothill’s administration. The demands are as follows: “[end the] sustained silence on the occupation and genocide in Palestine, [fund] speakers to educate the campus on the history of the occupation, [provide] mental health support for students impacted by the ongoing genocide, and [disclose] investments to and [divest] from companies that facilitate the genocide.” 

The students who led the walkout have maintained their momentum by creating the Owls for Palestine club, which was approved unanimously in the Inter-Club Council on April 30th. According to organizers, this walkout is only the beginning of activism for Palestine on Foothill’s campus.  

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About the Contributors
Sunaina Tadakamalla
Sunaina Tadakamalla is a first-year English major at Foothill College who is pleased to be exploring journalism as a reporter for The Script. As a student and a writer, she is driven by curiosity and a love for the arts. Aside from reading and writing, her life is characterized by music—listening to it, creating it, and finding community in it.
Sara Shibli
Sara Shibli, Reporter
Sara Shibli is a new member of The Script, as well as a first year Political Science major who is looking to transfer to a four year university. She enjoys helping students reach their full writing potential as a tutor in Foothill's Writing and Learning Center, and hopes to do the same within The Script.
Julian Caballero
Julian Caballero, Staff Photographer
Julian is a new member of The Script and pursues a passion for photography. He is president of the Photography club and enjoys capturing beautiful images of Foothill's campus with his camera.
Vivian Hanna
Vivian Hanna, Photography Editor
Vivian (she/they) is a second-year student at Foothill, working on transferring to UC Santa Cruz to pursue a Sociology degree. After taking an Intro to Photo class with award-winning Photojournalist and Foothill professor Judith Walgren, her interest in Photojournalism was sparked. With a focus on social documentary and wildlife/nature photography, Vivian hopes to document subjects and topics often overlooked. With the integration of photography into her status multidisciplinary artist, they also hope to increase coverage of the often-overlooked art department here at Foothill!

Comments (2)

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  • A

    May 7, 2024 at 9:34 am

    Great informative read. It’s more important now than ever to show up for Palestine. How amazing for the Great Blue Heron to join!

    • C

      CJ Toledo
      May 7, 2024 at 5:49 pm

      It was majestic! Both the walkout and the heron