Around 100 students marched from the Main Green to the downtown headquarters of Textron, a multi-industry company involved in defense manufacturing, as part of a walkout organized by the Brown University Palestine Solidarity Caucus Friday afternoon.
At the start of the protest, demonstrators hung a sign that read “Brown Invests in the Palestinian Genocide” on Sayles Hall. Organizers also held up banners with the names of each of the 11,320 people who had been killed in Israel’s retaliation in Gaza by early last week, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
In a press release from the Palestine Solidarity Caucus, the group also called on the University to “condemn … any racist harassment, doxing and censorship against students by taking concrete steps to protect the Palestinian community at Brown instead of arresting peaceful protestors.”
They also called for the University to denounce the “ongoing Palestinian genocide,” divest from manufacturers and assets that have “contributed arms to Israel” and lobby Rhode Island’s U.S. senators to support a ceasefire in Gaza.
At a faculty meeting earlier this month, President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 said the University would protect free speech. “I wholeheartedly agree that there should be no ‘Palestinian exception’ to freedom of expression,” she said. “I will go further: There are no exceptions to Brown’s clearly articulated policy on academic freedom and freedom of expression for views on any issue.”
Paxson declined to comment on demands for the University to call for a ceasefire.
In speeches on the Main Green, students also criticized Paxson for her previous assertion that “Brown’s endowment is not a political instrument” and argued that it was inconsistent with the University’s previous divestment from companies involved with tobacco and the Sudanese government’s human rights violations in Darfur, The Herald previously reported.
Speakers also referenced the University’s annual financial report for 2023, which stated that the University’s endowment, now totaling $6.6 billion, would “continue to … shape the character of Brown as an institution and ensure its permanence.”
“What is the character of an institution that uses both privilege and global presence to support genocide?” asked one speaker at the walkout.
“We know that many members of the Brown community feel the effects of these events in very deep and personal ways,” wrote University Spokesperson Brian Clark in an email to The Herald. “Brown leaders have met with multiple student groups in regard to their concerns about Israel and Gaza, and the University remains committed to engaging with students who are in touch directly with ideas or concerns.”
Protestors then marched down College Hill toward Textron headquarters to join a protest organized by the Rhode Island chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Protestors chanted and carried signs with phrases such as “Textron profits while children are killed.”
Textron is a $12.9 billion company that engages in defense manufacturing affiliated with the U.S. Department of Defense. The Israeli Air Force arsenal currently includes aircraft manufactured by Textron subsidiaries Bell and Beechcraft.
At the company’s headquarters on Westminster Street, protestors heard speeches from members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Palestinian Feminist Collective, the Palestine Solidarity Caucus and students at Rhode Island College.
“Today we are gathered here in front of Textron, another company who profits off of genocide,” said Pamela, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation who only identified herself by her first name, in a speech at the protest. “A company who profits by aiding the occupation of Palestinians. We’re here to shut down Textron for Palestine.”
Michael Maynard, director of corporate communications for Textron, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Textron respects the right of people to engage in peaceful and lawful protest,” Maynard previously wrote in an email to The Herald. “We take pride in supporting the U.S. military and our U.S. allies with our technologies and products, following all laws and regulations related to foreign military sales.”
“I know that if my family hadn’t been living in the U.S., I would be one of the people under the rubble,” said Farah, a student at Rhode Island College who only identified herself by her first name, in a speech at the protest. “My family were among those who were forcibly displaced in 1948. They had to migrate to Jordan as refugees. We were strangers to new land.”
Sherena Razek GS, an organizer with the Palestine Solidarity Caucus, called on the University to “heed the multiple democratic referenda and recommendations of its own ethical investment advisory committee … to divest from corporations complicit in the perpetuation of the human rights abuses against Palestinians.”
“These institutions and their endowments are so deeply entrenched in the military-industrial complex, … (they) experience calls for divestment as existential threats,” she added.