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Tacoma students shut down Zionist politician’s lecture

By Talison Crosby

Tacoma, Washington students shut down Zionist politician.  | Fight Back! News/staff

Tacoma, WA – On Wednesday, February 21, over 100 students and community members gathered to protest a lecture by a Washington state representative, Derek Kilmer, hosted by the University of Puget Sound. Kilmer was originally scheduled to speak at 7 p.m., however, he never got the opportunity after protesters flooded the auditorium and took the stage.

Killmer's record was laid bare in a statement prepared by members of University of Puget Sound (UPS) Students for a Democratic Society (SDS):

“In the year 2021 to 2022, Representative Kilmer received over $45,000 in campaign committee fundraising from his top contributor, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. On October 25, he supported bipartisan Resolution 771 to reaffirm the United States’ support for Israel. On January 23, he signed a bipartisan letter denouncing South Africa’s claims against Israel at the International Court of Justice. He refused to support Resolution 786, which calls for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Palestine.”

“We requested that the university revoke the invitation” said Lauren Garelick, student and founding member of UPS SDS. “UPS’s President Isaiah Crawford refused to do so.”

The crowd gathered in the parking lot adjacent to Schneebeck Hall around 6 p.m. and the campus was filled with chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “Derek Kilmer you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!”

In a blatant act of escalation and intimidation, UPS campus security requested additional force from the Tacoma Police Department (TPD), who were staged at the edge of the parking lot.

As speakers took turns giving rousing speeches, a call-and-response rang through the crowd: “Are we going to let security’s strongly-worded emails stop us?” “Hell no!” “Are we going to let threats of conduct violations stop us?” “Hell no!” “Are we going to let the racist, murderous Tacoma Police Department stop us?” “Hell no!” The crowd then began changing “TPD, KKK, IOF they're all the same!”

The connection between the Israeli occupational forces and police in the U.S. was articulated by UPS SDS member Clem Russel, “As a comrade shouting ‘Free Palestine’ was dragged out of Dallas City Hall on Valentine's Day this past week, the cop apprehending them replied ‘we learned this from Israel.’”

Shortly before 7 p.m., the crowd began marching towards the auditorium, pushing past campus security guards and the blocked doors, before finally gaining access and taking to the stage. For the next 20 minutes, students and community members occupied the auditorium while chanting “Free free Palestine! Long live Palestine'' and “There is only one solution: intifada, revolution!”

Eventually, campus security shut off power, leaving the auditorium in total darkness, and started evacuating the few lecture attendees who remained. After only a moment, the crowd of protesters illuminated the space with a sea of cellphone flashlights. The protest continued.

“We replaced a pro-genocide speaker with a group of students all stomping their feet and demanding better,” said UPS SDS member Annika Freeling. “Those moments on the stage showed just how much power we have when we unite.”

Eventually the crowd exited the auditorium and marched to a plaza outside the nearby library. As protesters were exiting, campus security utilized the sound system of the auditorium to launch a sonic attack, blaring a high-pitched feedback noise which incapacitated two disabled protesters. One student with hearing aids reported immense pain caused by the attack, and another was hospitalized.

“The violent backlash from campus security and administration proves how our institution provides harm over care while we as students and comrades show up for each other firmly and authentically,” said Garelick.

Despite the attacks deployed as protesters were dispersing, spirits remained high and the crowd continued chanting as they gathered outside the library.

“We are moving forward with a stronger sense of community between those committed to the struggle,” said Garelick. “This marks a point in history for UPS. We won't back down until we know collective liberation stands soundly.”

#TacomaWA #AntiWarMovement #International #MiddleEast #Palestine #StudentMovement #SDS