Updated as of 8:20 p.m. on May 7 to additional photos of the event.

The Students for Peace and Justice club held a peace walk in support of Palestinian people in Gaza the morning of May 7. Palestinian student Naz Shokri kicked off the walk with a speech at Medallion Plaza, followed by a walk around Moseley Center and through Young Commons.

“I look into the crowd today and I see people from all backgrounds, and I'm very excited that we're here gathered at the same cause,” Shokri said at the beginning of the walk. “Just like you, I'm here due to the belief that no matter where someone comes from, they're entitled to life, that they deserve food, water, safety and security just to name a few basics, that they also deserve a home.”

Joseph Navin | Elon News Network

Elon senior Naz Shokri speaks on Medallion Plaza at the start of Elon's first official pro-Palestinian demonstration on May 7.

Students across the country have been protesting the Israel-Hamas War since it began Oct. 7, 2023. At many universities, protests have overtaken parts of campus with encampments and police have responded in some cases with riot gear. Since April 17, more than 2,100 people have been arrested during pro-Palestinian protests on over 40 college campuses in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. University administrators at the University of California, Los Angeles and Columbia University have canceled commencement over the protests. At neighboring University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, classes were canceled April 30 after protests and counter protests led to arrests and the closure of a campus commons building.

At Elon, however, there have been few demonstrations. Students for Peace and Justice hosted another walk earlier this semester in solidarity with victims of oppression, where some students held signs in support of Palestinians, and one student, Noelle Vaught, has protested U.S. involvement in the war a couple times on Young Commons’ Speaker’s Corner. Tuesday’s event, “A Walk for Palestine,” was the first group demonstration on Elon’s campus since the war began that is specifically calling itself pro-Palestinian. 

Since Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel and killed around 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages, Israel has been carrying out an offensive in the Gaza Strip. As of May 7, more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in the war, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Students protesting across the country are calling for a stop to the war and the U.S. involvement in it. 

About 140 students joined the march at Elon Tuesday morning. Students for Peace and Justice member senior Kara McKinley helped organize the walk and said she was proud of the turnout.

“It was so heartening,” McKinley said. “It was so beautiful to see so many people came out, a lot of love shared.”

Senior Tess Trayner is also a member along with McKinley. Students for Peace and Justice is recognized as an official on-campus organization, they said, and that helped give them the opportunity to organize this type of approved demonstration.

“I always kind of say that we're trying to create a balance of perspectives on this conflict, because a lot of programming doesn't really provide a Palestinian perspective,” Trayner said. “But it's difficult when we're kind of the only org like fighting to have these kinds of events.”

Some faculty members also came out to support and observe the walk. Spanish professor Ketevan Kupatadze said she came out because she wanted to support both the cause and the students protesting.

“It's important to hear young generation’s voice,” Kupatadze said. “What I hear is that and what I know is that there are thousands of people have been victims of whatever's going on. I just think that it is our duty as citizens, as educated citizens, as future professionals, et cetera, to support those who, in my mind, are right now being persecuted, killed and victimized.”

McKinley said the organization appreciates faculty support.

“I think it was really important to have professors here as well and to see faculty staff support. I think that students can feel like they're alone sometimes. But having events like this really demonstrates everyone that like we are here we're here for you guys, and we support you.”

Some pro-Israel students watched the event. Senior Hunter Salzberg watched as the march passed by College Coffee. Salzberg said as a Jewish student, she feels Israel is a part of her identity. 

“I didn't expect to feel all the emotions that I'm feeling right now,” Salzberg said. “It was pretty upsetting but also everybody has the ability to say whatever they want.”

But other Jewish students disagree. 

“I'm a Jewish student on campus,” Trayner said. “So I think it's really important for people to hear that it's okay to support Palestine, to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, and be against the occupation and be proudly Jewish. Those are not contradictory things — if anything, it's part of our Jewish values to fight for liberation for everybody.”

McKinley and Trayner said Students for Peace and Justice meetings are open for all students, and they hope to do more like this in the future. 

“There are people on this campus that want events like this, that want to do something, that feel the obligation to do something,” Trayner said. “Really happy that we're able to provide something like that.”


Fiona McAllister contributed to the reporting of this story.