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SJP organizes student involvement in Augusta Free Palestine demonstration

October 27, 2023

Courtesy of Eisa Rafat
POWER OF PROTEST: Signs held up during the Justice for Palestine demonstration in front of the Maine State House in Augusta read "Free Palestine." The Bowdoin Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) provided transportation for 50 Bowdoin students to attend the protest last Friday where they joined other attendees from Bates and Colby’s SJP organizations.

On Friday, more than 50 Bowdoin students participated in a Justice for Palestine demonstration at the Maine State House in Augusta. Bowdoin Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organized van rides to and from Augusta, free to any Bowdoin student interested in attending the rally.

After being contacted by the demonstration’s organizers, Party for Socialism and Liberation Maine, SJP announced the opportunity to attend the demonstration at last week’s student-professor teach-in on the recent violence in Gaza and Israel.

Around 50 students met at Moulton Circle on Friday morning to be transported by SJP-sponsored vehicles to the event, which was located outside the Maine State House. Twenty to 30 additional Bowdoin students traveled to the State House in personal vehicles. Upon arrival, students were met by both Colby and Bates’ SJP organizations and over 200 other demonstrators.

The demonstration included activist speeches and a microphone open to the crowd. Bowdoin students, including Eisa Rafat ’25, used the opportunity to speak.

The 200-person turnout at the event and the ability to hear so many speakers from the crowd created a sense of intimacy for attendees like Rafat. The gathering became not only an opportunity to demonstrate but a space for unity and support.

“By the end of the night, people were talking to each other, getting to know each other,” Rafat said. “There’s a confidence that comes from knowing or feeling familiarity between people that were there as well. [While] you don’t know them, they’re really passionate and equally invested. You can visually see the emotions in the space and see that this is really important to them.”

Rafat believes that students and other demonstrators can take strength from the sense of care and community focal to the event.

“People are taken care of, and through that, people are in a better place to be more resilient, to be more courageous,” Rafat said.

Bhadra Mishra ‘24 echoed this sentiment, encouraged by the turnout of Bowdoin students on Friday.

“The momentum for change was inspiring to see. I have never been more proud of our student community at Bowdoin,” Mishra wrote in an email to the Orient.

Following last Friday’s protest, Rafat encouraged students who want to stay involved to keep an ear out for future SJP events and emphasized that SJP is an organization with an open door.

“There’s a lot of conversation that happens with anything that we do, and that’s because everybody really cares about this,” Rafat said. “We encourage people to talk to us if they disagree about things. We encourage that discourse. We ask that you come and talk to us about it. We aren’t going to shy away from a conversation.”


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