Eight college campuses across the state of Connecticut will hold silent walks demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and proclaiming their solidarity with the Palestinian people on Nov. 29. Every university will have its own variation of the event, which is sponsored by its Muslim Student Association (MSA). Fairfield’s MSA will start its walk from the Stag Statue at 1:00 p.m.
“We call on you to join us to unite on this nationwide day of protests,” reads the official flyer of the event. “We call on you to stand with the people of Palestine and demand a permanent ceasefire on Wednesday.”
The confirmed silent walks happening on Wednesday are expected to occur at Yale University, Quinnipiac University, University of Connecticut Stamford, Eastern Connecticut State University, Western Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University, University of New Haven and Fairfield University. However, while the general convocation calls for the walks to be held at noon, individual chapters will be holding their events throughout the day with their own goals and other MSA chapters are expected to join the national call for silent walks.
At Fairfield, the MSA hosted a poster crafting event in the Commuter Lounge and its adjacent Resource Room for students to “create powerful posters and banners for the upcoming Ceasefire in Gaza Silent Walk” on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28.
The online promotions for the event references watermelons, a Palestinian symbol of solidarity and resistance that first emerged as a result of Israel’s ban on the display of Palestinian flags during the Six-Day War in 1967. To evade the prohibition and its legal consequences, Palestinians started to use watermelons as a sign of resistance against the Israeli government, as once the fruit is cut open it displays the colors of the Palestinian flag, which are red, black, white and green.
Fairfield’s MSA walk preparation event provided students with a safe space for them to create their posters without having fear of being targeted because of their identity or support for the Palestinian people. An off-the-record conversation with multiple students highlighted the widespread fears of being identified as supporters of the Palestinian people and the ceasefire, and ultimately, being victims of doxxing campaigns.
A Nov. 19 story published by Yale Daily News highlighted the efforts made by a conservative group that displayed personal information of Yale and Harvard Pro-Palestinian students during a Yale-Harvard football game on Nov. 18. Yale’s MSA will be one of the confirmed student organizations to join the national call.
Other students expressed that their status as first-generation students and family pressures were some of the reasons for not wanting to be identified by name, as their parents may not approve of their involvement.
Some of the posters created by students read phrases like “Stop Genocide in Gaza,” “Free All Hostages,” “Stop Genocide in Gaza” and “Ceasefire NOW”. Students who participated in the two days of poster-making had access to posters, paint, brushes, markers, coloring pencils and stencils.
The silent walk, which coincides with the end of a two-day extension to the original four-day truce brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States last Friday, marks the first student-led demonstration of support for either side of the conflict. It is also the third event related to the Israel-Hamas conflict to be promoted on campus since the war started on Oct. 7, with Campus Ministry promoting an off-campus “Pray for Israel” gathering happening at Westport on Oct. 8 and a heated faculty Teach-In that was held in the Nursing building on Nov. 15.
“Our silent walk is a powerful call for peace, advocating for the well-being of all affected by the conflict, especially Palestinians in the Silent Walk, regardless of background,” reads the caption of an Instagram post made by Fairfield’s MSA. The post also emphasizes that the event is a silent walk and thus, they ask participants to remain silent throughout the walk and to cause “no blockades or disruptions.”
The Mirror obtained access to a document prepared and released by MSA detailing the purpose and guidelines for the event. The document was shared with student organizations, faculty, staff and students who have expressed interest in participating.
In the two-page document, the club organizing the event highlights that only approved materials are permitted “to avoid any misinterpretation of the event’s message.” Additionally, they encourage participants to maintain a respectful atmosphere and avoid arguments that remove the solemnity of the walk.
The walk will start at the Stag Statue and pass through the Quad, 42 Langguth Road, the front of Canisius Hall, Campus Ministry, the Dimenna-Nyselius Library, the Barone Campus Center and conclude at the Leo D. Mahoney Arena. A post-event debrief session with counseling services will be located at NHS 224. A map of the route can be found on the club’s Instagram page.
The document, which was also shared on Instagram, pleads with participants to maintain the event’s focus.
“Our focus is on a peaceful expression of our shared concern for the well-being of those affected. Anyone deviating from this principle does not represent our collective message,” reads the statement at the end of the document.
Jennifer Anderson ‘97, ’02 MBA, Fairfield University’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications reflected on the university’s commitment to “a culture that embraces and celebrates inquiry, actively encourages our students to express their views and opinions and fully supports their rights to free expression.”
“The University is committed to continuing to engage in substantive dialogue around current events both domestically and internationally as we build a community of learners and globally minded citizens from a variety of social, economic, racial, cultural, national and religious backgrounds,” Anderson said.
In regards to student concerns about safety, Anderson expressed that the standard practice in the university is for “students to meet with our department of public safety which the MSA has done.” The event will have two DPS officers in attendance.
The Mirror reached out to the Department of Public Safety for a response regarding the multiple safety concerns from students and participants but referred the request back to Anderson.
Student-organized walks are not uncommon at Fairfield. In April, the Fairfield University Student Association organized a Black Stags Matter Walk as a way to support underrepresented students on the anniversary of the “Community in Action” protest.
At the moment of this publication, only the Black Student Union indicated support to MSA’s event and even published a statement on Nov. 27 supporting the Palestinian people and the Muslim community as a whole.
“We encourage other clubs, organizations and departments to show their support for the MSA and for our overall Muslim and Palestinian communities,” reads their statement on Instagram.