Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Heightened responses manifest at Palestine Protest

On the afternoon of April 24, a united front of several student and off-campus organizations in support of Palestine gathered in the Sombrilla. Among the crowd were members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UTSA, Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) at UTSA and the Party for Socialism & Liberation (PSL) San Antonio. 

The day before, protesters staged a “die-in,” or a sit-in, at the doors of the John Peace Library cafeteria to raise awareness of deaths in Gaza. This protest is the third to take place on campus since the Oct. 7 attacks and Israel’s response. It occurred in alliance with several state and national events, notably the encampment protests led by students at Columbia University. The protest also follows changes in policy and response from the UTSA administration, including forbidding the use of certain words related to Israel while speaking at the protest. 

According to a joint statement on Instagram from PSL and SJP UTSA, “UTSA’s financial ties to complicit war profiteers like Raytheon and the Department of Defense incite us to call on students & faculty at UTSA to join the nationwide student struggle for Palestinian Liberation.”

In anticipation of the event, UTSA updated the handbook of operations to include the prohibition of camping on university property and posted a statement on its Instagram page: “You will see a significantly increased presence of law enforcement vehicles and uniformed officers on and around campus.” 

Traffic barriers had been placed in the main plaza and the Sombrilla for the sit-in. They remained overnight for the larger protest, as UTSAPD, SAPD and Texas State Troopers oversaw the area from the ground and roofs of buildings. Several aerial drones from an unknown source flew around campus as well. 

A UTSAPD police officer on duty clarified their presence. “We’re here for safety, for everybody’s safety, including the people that are protesting. It’s their right to practice their First Amendment rights. It’s not necessarily anticipating for violence, it’s mainly safety precautions.”

“I feel like the university is taking it out of proportion, and they’re making it seem like it’s a bad thing. They’re fear-mongering,” a student watching from the second floor of the JPL said. “They’re trying to scare people by the whole excessive law enforcement, the barriers. I mean, there’s not even enough people here for there to be genuine concern about anything. It’s a peaceful protest.”

Around 1:30 p.m., students and protesters huddled under the Sombrilla near the staircase leading toward the Business Building. They began to chant several calls and responses, such as “Free, Free Palestine,” and “We will honor all our martyrs, all our children, sons and daughters.” Posters, flyers and chants criticized Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s insistence on maintaining a city friendship with Tel Aviv as well as President Eighmy’s and President Biden’s “complicity in genocide.” Others supported Aaron Bushnell, an Air Force technician who set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy to protest the U.S.’ involvement in the conflict. 

In a joint Instagram post with UTSA, President Eighmy cautioned, “We are committed to the safety of our entire university community while permitting freedom of expression in an appropriate manner. I do want to reiterate my April 8th message to our community: we will not tolerate disruptive behavior, vandalism or antisemitism.”

Representatives from the student organizations refused to comment for The Paisano, citing worries of being interpreted as anti-semitic. “[The university] took away our voice amplifiers. Today, they have banned us from using several words like Israel, Zionist; we can’t say the word Netanyahu,” alleged Salma, a representative for PSL speaking on behalf of other groups. “I think it’s disgusting that [President Eighmy] tries to equate anti-zionist to anti-semitism. We are not anti-semitic, we are anti-zionist, we are anti-genocide, we are anti-Israel.”

As the speakers condemned Israel’s actions and encouraged the crowd to continue fighting for Gazans, a group of men gathered at the top of the staircase, interrupting chants with claims that “Islam is a false religion” and “Judaism is a false religion,” while holding signs saying “Repent and Believe” and “Christ is King.” One of them yelled, “You are being misguided by Islam and Judaism and Atheism and false religion. It’s occupied by sin and evil.” 

After an hour, the crowd began to move and marched by the McKinney Humanities Building, past Flawn Sciences and down the stairs toward Brackenridge Lot 1. An argument ensued between a staff member of Wellbeing Services and two protest leaders as the crowd marched on the road and began to block traffic. Limiting themselves to the curb, the protesters drew out speakerphones that were prohibited for use near buildings with classrooms and continued between the Convocation Center and the Recreation Wellness Center, walking back onto campus between the Student Unions. 

From the bridge linking the Student Union and H-E-B Student Union, protesters rolled down a poster with a list of over 200 hundred infants killed in the conflict. A speaker then stood on the stairs, drew the crowd’s attention to the adjacent green space and denounced SA Hillel, The Paisano and UTSA for hosting, covering and allowing an Israel Exposition that occurred at UTSA earlier this month. The next speaker made comparisons between impoverished Black communities in America suffering similar plights to the people of Gaza. The crowd climbed the stairs and returned to their original location at the Sombrilla to close out the protest. 

“We are building our movement on campus. PSL is more of an off-campus organization, but we are hoping to work more with SJP on campus so we can organize more protests like this,” Salma said of future plans for the summer months and onward.

This is a developing story. As updates arise, they will be covered at

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Faith Kouadio
Faith Kouadio, Staff Writer

Faith (she/her) is a public health major with a minor in information systems. Despite choosing to pursue studies in these specific fields, she enjoys writing and communications and hopes to incorporate them as a key part of her career. She believes in an increasingly information-heavy world, everyone has a duty to responsibly disseminate information – contributing to the Paisano is her small way of accomplishing this.

If you ask Faith what movie she saw last night, she will have a new answer every time. Other than watching movies, she enjoys listening to and collecting music and traveling. Having grown up in the Toronto region, Texas is one stop from the many places she has called home. After her anticipated graduation in Spring 2024, she’s excited to see where life takes her next.

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