University of Manitoba’s pro-Palestinian encampment commemorates Nakba Day

Thursday afternoon, students and guests at the University of Manitoba encampment held a vigil which included speakers and poetry, in commemoration of Nakba Day on May 15th. Joanne Roberts has the story.

Pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of Manitoba’s encampment in solidarity with the community commemorated the 76th anniversary of Nakba Day on Thursday.

“The translation of ‘Nakba’ into English is ‘a disaster’ or ‘catastrophe,’ because this is the best way to describe it,” Rana Abdullah, with the Canadian Palestinian Association of Canada, told protesters in a speech.

Students, faculty, and supporters gathered to mark the day when – on May 15, 1948 – hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes over Israel’s creation.

Nakba remembrances have taken on new significance this year, as encampments have been set up in many North American universities in protest for Palestinian rights.

A pro-Palestinian sign within the University of Manitoba encampment in Winnipeg on May 16, 2024. (Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

“It is a dark day for a lot of people and we hope to make things better in the coming future,” student protester Hussein Chokr told CityNews.

Chokr has been at the UM encampment since it began more than a week ago. Although he’s not of Palestinian descent, Nakba Day strikes a personal chord; his uncles fought alongside Palestinians during the Lebanese civil war.

READ MORE: Pro-Palestinian protesters at both Winnipeg campus encampments demand transparency from their universities

“Today is to commemorate them for their courage, to remember them and their struggles and to tell them, ‘hey we’re here, and we did not forget the things that you went through,’” Chokr said.

“The revolution movement for the Palestinian cause has been bigger than ever before. The students and the youths … showed that we will not stand quiet when there is a genocide.”

Hussein Chokr, who has been staying at the University of Winnipeg encampment since it began on May 7, 2024. (Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

Dozens of people gathered at the UM quad – one of two pro-Palestinian encampments in Winnipeg – on Thursday afternoon. Over the last week, the encampment has seen peaceful protests, in stark contrast to the arrest of more than 100 demonstrators at Columbia University in New York.

“Columbia’s encampments may have gone down, but hundreds of encampments all over North America have gone up,” UM student Zahra Rizvi told the crowd. “If you take one encampment down, 100 will come up. If you take down one tent, a thousand will come up.”

The Nakba Day encampment at the university — which alternated between sunny skies and pouring rain — pulled together speakers not only from the Palestinian community (Abdullah), but also from the Lebanese community (Chokr); the Mennonite Community (Byron Rempel-Burkholder, chair of the Mennonite Church Canada Palestine-Israel Network); and the Jewish Community (Harold Schuster).

Rana Abdullah of the Canadian Palestinian Association of Canada (left) with Harold Schuster of Independent Jewish Voices Winnipeg, at the UM pro-Palestinian encampment May 16, 2024. (Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

“Fighting for Palestinian liberation is about fighting for my liberation and the liberation of all oppressed and marginalized people,” Schuster, of Independent Jewish Voices Winnipeg, said.

“We have to continue working together, coming together, united,” added Abdullah.

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