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Miami's Students for Justice in Palestine protest with a march and encampment

Editor's Note: This is a developing story. The reporting is updated regularly.

The University of Miami student group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) led a March for Palestine on Thursday, May 2, and is currently setting up camp on Miami academic campuses.

The march began at 6 p.m. on West Campus and ended at the Seal, where a few tents and hammocks were set up outside Roudebush Hall, an administrative building since it is centrally located on campus.

The protests followed demonstrations by college students across the country calling on their administrators to divest from companies with ties to Israel. Some of these protests resulted in police responses and mass arrests.

Darek Sanabria Valderrama, a junior diplomacy and world politics student and future treasurer of the SJP, was one of the main organizers of the demonstration. He said the goal of the protest was to send a message to the administration.

“The student body is ready and excited to continue the process of disclosure and divestment regarding our endowment funds and their connection to certain companies directly involved in the genocide in Palestine,” said Sanabria Valderrama.

Maysa Constandinidis, president of the SJP of Miami, addressed the approximately 50 participants before leading the march across campus.

“We understand how important student voices are when it comes to demanding change,” Constandinidis said, “and we believe that hesitation on the part of the university is violence.”

Photo by Reagan Rude | The Miami Student

Miami's Students for Justice in Palestine are calling on their university to divest from companies with Israeli ties.

Constandinidis said members of the Miami SJP met with Miami President Greg Crawford yesterday after seven months of inquiries. Although some agreement has been reached, SJP believes the university lacks a sense of urgency.

“At this meeting we were continually confronted with excuse after excuse as to why the university cannot obtain a detailed list of companies from the investment group with which it itself has contracts,” Constandinidis said.

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Sanabria Valderamma said that despite some progress, the SJP hopes the demonstration will highlight student support for divestment and create more urgency on the part of the university.

“We managed to get them to contact the investment group that invests in Miami and get new information,” said Sanabria Valderrama. “Even though we made small progress yesterday, it’s not enough and it’s not happening fast enough.”

Constantinidis' speech took place at the Freedom Summer Memorial in Miami, dedicated to young activists who trained at the Western College for Women in the summer of 1964 before heading to Mississippi to fight for the civil rights of black Americans.

Following the march, demonstrators set up tents and sat on the grass in the schoolyard. The camp started around 7 p.m. There was some police presence on the edge of campus, but no action has yet been taken to force students to leave their camp.

A group of counter-demonstrators also stood next to the seal and supported Israel. Matthew Lodge, a senior political science student, was one of the participants, holding a half-Israeli, half-American flag.

“We are here to demonstrate a pro-Israel presence,” Lodge said. “We want to make sure that Jewish students are not afraid here on campus. We will show our pride and ensure that pro-terrorist sentiments are put to an end.”

Clara Conover, a senior studying geography and sustainable development, is the digital organizer for the Ohio Student Association who worked with SJP to help with media relations.

“We join a long legacy of people who have set up camps and occupied spaces to encourage and demand that universities free themselves from genocide by the Israeli state,” Conover said.

Sanabria Valderrama said SJP plans to remain on campus as long as possible but will cancel the camp if arrests or “something serious” is imminent.

“Our top priority right now is safety,” said Sanabria Valderrama.

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Anna Harden

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