CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Tensions and emotions were high as students gathered during a pro-Palestinian rally on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus Thursday.
A large crowd gathered in front of Wilson Library—many of them chanting, shouting, and holding signs. Others stopped to watch.
“I think we often forget what happens in the Middle East does affect us here,” said UNC grad student Estienne Reich who was there to witness the rally and show her support for Israel.
Reich said the conflict in Israel has impacted many students on the campus and have also been on edge. She added, “We have a lot of family members there, friends there, and I’m sure that the students on the other side feel the same way.”
Several students said they first learned about the “Day of Resistance” rally on social media—a call organized by the group ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ (SJP). SJP chapters at other universities also announced similar plans to rally. Those who attended said they called for a peaceful demonstration.
While rallying and standing on the steps outside Wilson Library, pro-Palestinian demonstrators were also met with counter-protestors. At one point, things became heated between the two groups and one man was escorted out of the crowd by campus police after a confrontation. Police pulled the man aside, asked questions, but said there wouldn’t be any arrests.
CBS17 News contacted UNC police who have not yet confirmed any injuries.
Aidan Spelbring, a UNC senior, said he was there to watch the heated demonstration. He said, “I saw a lot of people who care about the conflict going on between Israel and Palestine.”
Spelbring said the gathering surfaced many emotions on campus and he was glad UNC police stepped in when they did. He added, “It’s an extremely complicated conflict that people often try to make black and white which is the main problem, I believe.”
During an event to celebrate the university’s 230th anniversary Thursday morning, UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz also acknowledged the pain felt by the conflict in Israel. He said, “We condemn all forms of violence and mourn the many lives lost. Rest assured, we are focused on our people and supporting them during this difficult time. My leadership team and I have been reaching out and meeting directly with those who are hurting—especially our students.”
UNC student Jacob Groden, co-president of the Jewish Business Association on campus, wants to see a show of support specifically for Israel, and Jewish students from the university.
Groden said rhetoric at Thursday’s rally has made some Jewish students concerned for their safety on campus.
“It was really disheartening to see the some of the rhetoric being utilized by groups that are affiliated with our campus,” Groden said.