Savannah Brooks ’26
On Thursday, Dec. 7 at 11:30 a.m., over 200 members of the Trinity community gathered on the Gates Quad outside of Mather Hall in a scheduled peaceful protest in support of Palestine. The protest was labeled as a “walkout” by the Trinity Students & Faculty for Justice in Palestine, an independent coalition that organized the walkout as a part of Palestinian Solidarity Week.
Five members of the coalition were invited inside the President’s Office by Chief of Staff Jason Rojas to speak with Berger-Sweeney about 45 minutes after the protesters had first assembled to present their demands* regarding campus culture and Trinity’s response to crises. After an hour of continued chants and impassioned speeches by several members of the student body, the five students emerged from the office to raucous cheers from the remaining protestors. The students, clearly worn down but excited, encouraged those assembled to continue their activism long after they left the walkout.
The walkout, in part spurred by the recent shooting of a Palestinian Trinity student and his friends that is being investigated as a hate crime, began with a reading of an open letter written by the coalition about how their Trinity education has taught them how to mobilize in times of need. They unveiled a Palestine flag hanging from the Cave patio, made by the coalition, with the written names of killed Palestinian children making up the design of the flag. Coalition members then began to organize the group (a number of whom were wearing keffiyehs, a traditional headdress often worn in Palestine) into two lines. The assembled members proceeded through the Goodwin/Woodward Arch onto the Long Walk before stopping on the Main Quad in front of the President’s Office while chanting phrases typically used in protests advocating for Palestinian liberation such as “Resistance is justified/When people are occupied.” The protest continued while the coalition’s demands were read. The protesters called for Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney to come out to speak with them.
The meeting with Berger-Sweeney in which the students presented the coalition’s demands went better than they had hoped, said the students. However, they aim for better transparency and more genuine engagement from Trinity administration in the future.
”We’re asking for things that are doable,” one of the five students invited to speak with Berger-Sweeney said. “Something is definitely going to change. What is it? How much change is going to happen? That’s [to be determined]. All we want is to genuinely and authentically be taken seriously…We’re doing what our professors told us to do. [The administration] should be proud of us…This is the opportunity for [Trinity] to be the transformative speakers you want to be.”
The coalition’s larger demands included asking for Trinity to “call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza,” “increase structures for student support and academic inclusion” and “commit to long-term institutional changes.”
“The point of the walkout was not to ask Trinity to end the war,” another of the five students said. “This was protesting Trinity[‘s silence].”
The walkout, as the students told the Tripod, was meant to change things at Trinity, which in turn would change things in the U.S. and abroad. They referred back to anti-apartheid and anti-war protests held at universities across the country and at Trinity in the late 1960s and 1970s.
“Trinity, as a powerful institution, can do small things here that will make big changes,” one of the students noted. “Protests at universities did cause divestment in South Africa [and] a shift in public opinion about the Vietnam War.”
In a conversation with several coalition members, they made sure to emphasize that they were not the group’s “leaders” or “organizers” (in fact, there are none—the coalition is a decentralized group that does not put any names forward). When asked about the walkout’s organization, they held that Palestinian Solidarity Week was created to educate students and bring change to Trinity. The week also included showings of movies depicting life in Gaza such as “Israelism” and “Gaza” along with discussions with faculty and artists.
Reflecting on the week, the students were hopeful, but still seek more from the Trinity community, especially when it comes to engagement with their events.
“We’re giving you all the resources,” one of the members said. “Everyone’s scared. We’re scared too. We’re doing this so that students don’t feel scared.”
The members of the coalition were disheartened at comments from non-Muslim students worried that the events were not for them.
“Jewish students on campus are welcome,” they told the Tripod. “It has nothing to do with religion.”
They were, however, “overwhelmed” with the showing at the walkout, which was placed at the end of the week so that people could take what they learned at the preceding events and use it to fight for solidarity at the walkout.
“We did have more and more people join us. There were a large number of people who came to the protest, a ton of people came to Light the Long Walk and the walkout. It made me feel hopeful. Things are changing slowly,” one of the students noted. “I saw this kid at Light the Long Walk being like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ By the end, I saw him come to the walkout. I saw him come to the movies.”
The coalition encourages students who are still unsure about Israel and Palestine to look to the faculty for resources.
“Try not to ask Arab and Palestinian students about what’s going on. Educate yourself first. Talk to your professors,” one student advised. “Really try to put your bias aside.”
The coalition emphasized that their events are open to everyone and ultimately meant for education above all else. They seek a more engaged and anti-racist campus, particularly after the increased presence of the media on campus after the shooting in Vermont.
When reflecting on the need for on-campus activism, one of the students remarked that “The whole world is looking at Trinity College right now.”
*The coalition’s demands are embedded below.