When the concussive drums and traditional dancers celebrating Dia de los Muertos exited Northrop Auditorium around noon Friday, they unwittingly entered a 20-foot divide separating demonstrations by two political University of Minnesota student groups.
On one side, pro-Israel students rallied to cover Northrop Mall almost entirely in Israeli flags.
On the other side of the plaza, pro-Palestine students silently protested with duct tape over their mouths. Similar face-offs are playing out at college campuses across the country.
The two demonstrations came after weeks of online arguments culminating in mediation from the University administration.
Lamar Hylton, assistant vice provost for student life, who met with the groups, said the official Facebook pages of Students Supporting Israel and Students for Justice in
Palestine had posts that were not acceptable to University conduct.
Hylton said posts on official group Facebook accounts mentioned specific students of opposing views by name. The posts have been taken down from each groups’’ page.
Following the meeting, the groups agreed there would be no more naming of individuals on Facebook, but that they still fundamentally disagree, he said.
“We saw it as an opportunity to talk about how we can move forward respectively,” Hylton said.
Sami Rahamim, president of SSI, said to the best of his knowledge, neither groups’ Facebook page named individuals. He said the meeting with administration was prompted because of other incidents, including the vandalizing of SSI’s pro-Israeli chalking near Coffman Union last spring.
But Mariam El-Khatib, SJP’s advisor, said exchanges on Facebook did happen.
Other colleges have reported pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli student groups clashing recently. At Washington University in St. Louis
, students held a rally
in support of Israel, which a pro-Palestinian group said had racist arguments.
Rahamim said SSI hosted the rally as an outlet to support Israel after stabbings in the country as well as to demonstrate against terrorism.
SJP’s protest of the rally was motivated by the “oppressive conditions the Palestinians are living under all over historic Palestine,” according to the group’s official Facebook page.
Following the end of the protest, El-Khatib addressed the crowd of about 70.
“We’re here to stand for justice. You can’t have peace without justice,” El-Khatib said.