Students walk out for Palestine as sit in reaches sixth night

Holding signs that read, “Free Palestine,” “Stop Genocide” and “To stand with Palestine is to stand with humanity,” students walked out of class Wednesday afternoon as part of a national walkout “against genocide, settler colonialism and the siege on Gaza.” 

Over 300 participants gathered near Memorial Church at 1:45 p.m., then walked to the Oval, down Jane Stanford Way and down Lasuen Mall to gather at White Plaza where two speakers gave speeches. Similar walkouts occurred on college campuses across the U.S., including University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University and Columbia University.

Attendees demanded a variety of measures, including a ceasefire in Gaza, “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” and action from University administrators. 

The walkout occurred amid Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and an ongoing siege that has cut off access to food and water. Over 5,000 people were killed in Gaza, according to the Gazan health ministry.

Israeli retaliation followed an Oct. 7 surprise attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas that massacred more than 1,400 people, mostly Israeli civilians. 224 people were taken hostage. 

Ava DeConcini ’25, who spoke at the walkout, said she was “frustrated” by an Oct. 11 statement from President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez. Saller and Martinez wrote that they do not plan on “issuing statements about news events not directly connected to campus” and that the campus community “should not expect frequent commentary from [them] in the future.”

“[Stanford is] supposedly a group of the brightest, most educated — the best professors in the entire world — and they’re here because of their ability to deal with complicated issues,” DeConcini said. “If Stanford’s not going to put forth a nuanced and articulate statement about it … it’s disappointing to see.”

The first speaker, who did not identify themselves, said that an “immediate ceasefire in Gaza … is not the end.” Rather, they want to see a “full liberation of Palestinians.”

“I ask you to please stand up for Palestinians, today, tomorrow and until we get a liberated Palestine,” the speaker said.

DeConcini said she is part Palestinian but grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles. She called for the audience to “cry for the horrors your neighbors have lived through and let your neighbors cry for you and yours.” 

She said she wrote her speech “with [her] Jewish friends in mind.”

Her speech opened with “acknowledgments about the gravity of the Holocaust” and to “create space” to validate feelings of antisemitism across campus because “it’s so important in this dialogue where it becomes so one-sided.”

DeConcini said she decided on the topic of her speech after having several conversations over the past few days with friends who strongly disagreed with her views. 

“People want to make this inflammatory and divisive … they want there to be sides and they want to form tribes and factions,” DeConcini said. “I think what people are forgetting is that, hopefully, when all of this is over, we all are going back to school, we’re all going to be peers and we’re all going to be in the same world together.”

Students walk out for Palestine as sit in reaches sixth night
(Photo: ABHIRAJ GUPTA/The Stanford Daily)

DeConcini advocated for peaceful resolutions, but some attendees articulated different views. At the beginning of the walkout, some protestors chanted, “​​If there is the People for Liberation of Palestine, then we are the Students for Liberation of Palestine” — a reference to the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command. One protestor’s sign read, “Decolonization is not a metaphor.” Another sign read, “Long live the Intifada.”

The “Intifada” refers to uprisings during the 1980s and 2000s against Israeli rule by Palestinian civilians, which killed Israeli soldiers and civilians. 

DeConcini said that while she was not present for the beginning of the walkout, she had told organizers to avoid calls to violence or oppression, “which didn’t really have a place at all, especially after a hopeful attempt at peace.”

Several counter-protesters were present at the walkout and recorded the attendees. Participants said they felt uncomfortable by the recording and filming.

A Jewish student at the walkout said she saw a man filming many participants, even after being asked to stop. She said students huddled around him and tried to block his camera with their posters, but that the only physical interaction was the man swatting another student’s hand away. The Jewish student requested anonymity out of concerns for personal safety.

She also said there were around a dozen safety marshals present at the walkout. 

The walkout occurred on the sixth day of a sit-in, which began on Friday, held by students at White Plaza. 

DeConcini joined the sit-in on Friday evening and said she has spent several days and nights there. 

“I really feel like this is what I came to college for,” DeConcini said. “To sit and have conversations with people who have different backgrounds and different views who don’t necessarily agree, who come together … and teach each other.”

DeConcini said the sit-in participants plan to continue as long as necessary.

“At the most basic level, what is happening in Gaza is wrong and that’s why we sit,” DeConcini said.

Abhiraj Gupta contributed reporting.