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The Bruno Brief: Students interrupt Paxson at Main Green vigil for Palestinian junior

Amanda Sun

Welcome back to the Bruno Brief, I鈥檓 Amanda Sun, podcast producer and contributing writer. On this week鈥檚 episode, we spoke with Neil Mehta and Kathy Wang, University 国产偷拍 editors, about their reporting on Monday night鈥檚 vigil for Hisham Awartani 鈥25 鈥 a Palestinian student from Brown who was shot in Vermont in what police have described as a possible hate crime 鈥 and the protests which ensued after President Christina Paxson took the podium.

Last Saturday, Awartani was shot along with his friends Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, both also Palestinian college students, in Burlington, Vermont. All three students are expected to survive, and currently, the police and FBI are investigating whether the incident was a hate crime. 

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At Monday night鈥檚 vigil, which about 400 community members attended, Paxson condemned the violence. After telling community members that quote 鈥渨e are powerless to do everything we鈥檇 like to do,鈥 protestors interrupted her remarks, chanting 鈥淏rown divest鈥 and booing, compelling her to leave the lectern before she finished her speech. Another speaker, Professor of Palestinian Studies Beshara Doumani, read a message from Awartani to the crowd and reiterated the protestors鈥 demands.

Amanda Sun

So Neil, can you talk about what happened in Vermont?

Neil Mehta

On Saturday, three college students including a junior at Brown, all of whom are Palestinian, were shot in the city of Burlington in Vermont. On Sunday, a suspect in the shooting was arrested and is currently being held without bail. That suspect pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder. None of the three students were killed, but the Brown University undergraduate, Hisham, is currently in the hospital. The FBI launched an investigation into whether the shooting was a hate crime. Following the shooting, President Christina Paxson sent an email out to the Brown community, calling for a vigil on the Main Green.

Amanda Sun

And Neil, what happened at the vigil on Monday night?

Neil Mehta

At the vigil, Paxson began speaking to some of the broader context surrounding violence against Palestinian people. And she said, 鈥渨e can't disentangle what happened to Hisham from the broader events in Israel and Palestine that sadly we have been dealing with for decades. After that, she described the University as 鈥減owerless to do everything we'd like to do when it comes to events happening across the country.鈥 After that statement, students in the crowd began chanting 鈥淏rown divest鈥 and 鈥渟hame on you,鈥 and booing in response to her statement. So, from that moment forward, students began protesting, and some students ascended Faunce and out of the Faunce building held a banner saying 鈥淏rown invests in the Palestinian genocide.鈥 So Paxson left, the lectern, and the vigil continued. 

Amanda Sun

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Who spoke? What did they say?

Neil Mehta

So CPax wasn't the only speaker at the vigil. There were some of Hisham鈥檚 peers and other community members. One was Beshara Doumani, who's a professor of history at the University. And when he ascended the lectern on the Main Green, he read out a statement that Hisham sent him via text. In the statement, Hisham said, 鈥渉ad I been shot in the West Bank where I grew up, the medical services that saved my life here, would likely have been withheld by the Israeli army.鈥 The statement was met with approval from many members of the crowd. And cheers.

Kathy Wang

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So during the vigil, a friend of Hisham spoke, and the friend shared what kind of a person Hisham is, that he has a talent for archaeology, he's a math genius, he also is a polyglot. He is a person that's intensely focused on others who always cares for others. 

Amanda Sun

And what was the scene like at the vigil?

Neil Mehta

So, there were hundreds of community members, mostly students that stood in a semi-circle around the Faunce steps just before the sun began setting on the Main Green. After the official vigil ended and students began chanting for Brown to divest, into the evening, the students formed a crowd that shifted toward University Hall where President Christina Paxson presumably was after the vigil.

Amanda Sun 

Now here is a recap of other important stories happening this week.

On Monday, the University requested that Providence鈥檚 City Solicitor鈥檚 office drop the charges against the 20 Jewish students who were arrested in the sit-in at University Hall earlier this month on charges of willful trespass. The arrests drew criticism from student organizations, faculty and alumni alike, and President Paxson noted that the motivation behind the decision to drop charges was to get 鈥渢he campus to focus on things that are important to us right now.鈥

In other news, the University鈥檚 annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture on Feb. 15 will feature a speech from Sherrilyn Ifill, former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Ifill, who has worked in civil rights law and academia, was recognized one of Time Magazine鈥檚 100 Most Influential People in 2021, in part due to her advocacy related to police violence and systemic violence. 

Lastly, the University鈥檚 for the 2023 fiscal year showed a 2.2% increase in its net assets, which are valued at $7.7 billion. The report findings indicate that this increase was driven by gifts to the endowment and capital projects, as well as investment returns.

Thanks again for tuning into the 11th episode of this season of the Bruno Brief. This episode was produced by me, Amanda Sun, Jacob Smollen and Finn Kirkpatrick, edited by Finn Kirkpatrick, Jannu Ramesh, and Christine Okulo, and scripted by Grace Hu. If you like what you hear, subscribe to The Bruno Brief wherever you get your podcasts and leave a review. Thanks for listening this semester. We鈥檒l see you in 2024.

Music Credits:

Denzel Sprak:  

McCarthy:  



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