Amherst students march for Palestine

By Matt Constanti

AMHERST, Mass.--Less than week before Hampshire College succeeded in their campaign to divest from Israel, 300 students and community members marched from the University of Massachusetts through downtown Amherst to Amherst College on February 7.

Although the rally didn't have a permit, no one hesitated in marching in the street the whole time, and when a police car blocked the road, everyone just went around it. A rumored counterprotest by members of Hillel never happened, despite the fact that the march passed right by Hillel House.

The rally at Amherst College was also full of energy as people heard about the successful occupation at the University of Rochester, where protesters won their demand of a public forum on the school's policy on investment in Israel. Speakers included members of the UMass Muslim Students Association, the Campus Antiwar Network and the International Socialist Organization, among others.

A woman who had grown up in Gaza talked about not knowing if some of the people who had been massacred in the recent Israeli assault had been her friends or neighbors as a child. She, along with others, also made the connection between the occupation of Palestine and the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A major theme during the rally was U.S. interests in Palestine and funding for Israel, as people seemed confident that they could affect what was going on overseas through actions such as boycotts and divestment at home. The protest was organized by the Pioneer Valley Coalition for Palestine, a group recently formed by students from the area colleges.