UO students chain themselves to Johnson Hall in solidarity with Gaza, rename it Alareer Hall

UO students and community members gathered in front of the Gaza solidarity camp Thursday morning after the UO Palestine Coalition put out a call the night before, saying they would be “holding our admin accountable and putting them on trial.” Organizers were telling people that this would be the biggest action yet, and you would not want to miss it. Protesters held shortly at the encampment before marching to Johnson Hall, where UO President Scholz and other administrators have their offices.

Three students were already at the top of the steps of Johnson Hall, dressed up as administrators associated with the university: UO President John Karl Scholz, UO Board of Trustees Chair Steve Holwerda, and UO Foundation CEO and President Paul Weinhold. As protesters arrived, an organizer announced that they would be holding a trial of UO Admin v. the Popular University. Students then began to read actual statements from Palestinians as another organizer acted as the judge and one other acted as a prosecutor.

“I lost my cousins and my neighbor, all of them my friends, just to get some flour and canned goods after months of starving,” Read one student that they accredited to Hala ‘Obeid.

After several statements were read, the “prosecutor” began grilling the administrators and they provided responses crafted by protestors with dramatic effect, but also cribbed from actual statements.

“They have reasonably asked that we cut ties with these universities, especially considering the fact that every single university in Gaza has been destroyed. What do you have to say to this reasonable demand?” said the prosecutor.

As UO administrators actors provided their responses protestors engaged in lively booing and calls of “shame” towards them. The mock tribunal was closed out with the judge asking the people of the protest what the verdict should be. Everybody in unison shouted guilty, and the Holwerda, Scholz, and Weinhold impersonators stood up revealing fake blood on their hands.

This event took place on Ducks Give 2024, the day of the year where the university makes it hardest push of the year for alumni to provide donations. Pro-Palestinian groups having been telling the community to withold their donations until the UO agrees to divest from companies “complicit in or profiting from genocide.” Organizers at the protest reiterated the demands.

A handful of protestors then swiftly took the stage attaching tubes to their arms, affixing them together, and chains to tie them to pillars of Johnson Hall, where they still remain as of the evening. Additionally they announced that the building would now be known as Alareer Hall, named after Refaat Alareer, a Palestinian poet, writer, and professor killed by an Israeli airstrike. The individuals tied to the building said that they would remain their until their demands are met.

Later in the evening members of the encampment began moving supply canopies to the lawn of Johnson Hall and tents to the lawn across from it, claiming it as the new area of the Gaza solidarity camp.