More than 60 people participated in a sit-in on McKeldin Mall Monday calling for the University of Maryland to divest from military contractors and denounce Israel’s violence in Gaza.

The event included speeches from attendees and a march around McKeldin Mall in an effort to garner university administrators’ attention. From about 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., students sat on lawn chairs and picnic blankets surrounded by Palestinian flags and held signs with messages such as “Divest Now” and “End policing on campus.” Some students continued the sit-in Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We hope they understand that we’re peaceful protesters,” Hershel Barnstein, this university’s Jewish Voice for Peace chapter’s president, said Monday. “We also hope that they comply with our demands. That’s why we’re here … we’re prepared to stay for the long haul and until they listen.”

The University System of Maryland Foundation, which controls the university systems’ financial assets, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This university declined to comment on the sit-in and the students’ demands.

[UMD SGA fails to advance divestment resolution]

At about 12 p.m. on Monday, Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, Stamp Student Union’s director, told demonstrators to move to the area behind McKeldin Library because the mall was reserved all week for the setup of Maryland Day — which will be held on Saturday.

Guenzler-Stevens said on Monday that spontaneous demonstrations cannot be held on reserved areas.

Attendees moved to the area behind McKeldin Library and continued to chant, expressing their solidarity with Palestinian people.

Barnstein, a senior biology major, was one of the students that continued the sit-in Tuesday morning. Attendees began Tuesday’s sit-in on McKeldin Mall and moved to Hornbake Plaza mid-day.

Barnstein said Tuesday that students are prepared to continue their demonstration until their demands are met.

Jenna Merish, who is Palestinian, said some students skipped class to attend Monday’s sit-in.

“We are basically setting our priorities straight,” Merish, a freshman psychology major, said. “We prioritize human life over school, education, jobs.”

Students at this university coordinated their actions with demonstrations across other colleges in support of Palestine, Barnstein said Monday.

More than 100 student demonstrators supporting Palestine at Columbia University were arrested during a “university-authorized New York Police Department sweep” last week after re-erecting an encampment on campus, The Columbia Daily Spectator reported Sunday. On Monday, Yale University police arrested 47 student protestors supporting divestment after their third night of a campus encampment, according to the Yale Daily News.

Christina Hanhardt, an associate professor in this university’s American studies department, said some faculty and staff at this university support a “just future for the people of Palestine” and a ceasefire in Gaza. But many are concerned about repercussions for vocalizing their support, she said.

“Many of my colleagues are anxious about what it would mean to speak out, both because of the ways that they have seen their speech to be targeted by administrators and because of the example of what’s happening on campuses across the country,” Hanhardt said Monday.

The rise in protests supporting Palestine on college campuses comes after more than six months of Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

Hamas killed at least 1,200 people in Israel and took about 250 hostages in an Oct. 7, 2023, attack, according to the Associated Press. Israel declared war on Hamas the next day, the Associated Press reported. Israel’s military forces have killed more than 34,000 people in Palestine since October, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

In addition to expressing solidarity with student protestors across the country, students at this university must remain focused on supporting Palestinians on campus and abroad, junior philosophy and physics major Matt Foos said.

Merish said she attends events on campus to show solidarity for people in Palestine.

[UMD students supporting Palestine protest Israeli politician’s talk]

Merish’s grandfather and other relatives were displaced from their village in Palestine in 1948, she said.

About 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes permanently in 1948 during the Nakba — “catastrophe” in Arabic — because of the Arab-Israeli War and the State of Israel’s establishment, according to the Associated Press.

Many of Merish’s family members were also killed during that time, she said.

“I’m doing everything basically for them,” Merish said.

Last week, this university’s Student Government Association voted to not consider a resolution calling on the University System of Maryland Foundation to divest from “companies engaged in human rights violations” after it received an unfavorable report from the student affairs committee, The Diamondback previously reported.

This university said the outcome of the SGA debate on the resolution would have “no bearing on university policy or practice” in an April 17 statement to The Diamondback.

Foos, a member of this university’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, said the sit-in was a “great opportunity” to show that students will continue to voice support for divestment.

“We’re not gonna let divestment fall by the wayside,” Foos said Monday. “It is important to the students on this campus that University of Maryland acknowledges its complicity with these weapons manufacturers and does something actively about it.”

Senior staff writer Marijke Friedman contributed to this story.