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The impact of a Palestinian global strike echoes through Tampa Bay area

A group of people stand together holding signs and the Palestinian flag.
Kayla Kissel
/
WUSF
Multiple USF student organizations came together to protest as a part of the global strike. They made signs and brought flags to march across campus with.

To draw attention to the global strike for Palestinians in Gaza, multiple campus organizations came together to hold a walk-out and “die-in.”

A global strike in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza has come to the Tampa Bay area.

“There's a very large community that is very publicly pro-Palestinian, (and) unapologetic about it,” said Will Mleczko, president of the University of South Florida’s Students for Socialism chapter. “We've seen, sometimes, a couple thousand people meeting up for marches every weekend, as well as doing disruptions and staging demonstrations.”

The global strike was called by Palestinian journalist Bisan Owda. The week-long effort aims to make an economic impact by having activists skip school or work, boycott Israeli goods and companies, and hold protests.

“Fifty to 60 (Tampa) businesses closed, to kind of show that they supported Palestine on one of the days in the past couple of months,” Mleczko said.

A woman stands holding a sign that says "save Gaza." She is surrounded by other people protesting.
Kayla Kissel
/
WUSF
Members protesting the strike held up signs to show their public support for Gaza.

Students from USF said they want to see the school call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

To draw attention to the matter, multiple campus organizations including the Muslim Student Association, Students Organize for Syria, and Students for Socialism, came together Thursday to hold a walk-out and “die-in.”

“We definitely try and prioritize Palestinian voices,” Mleczko said. “It's important that the people that are most at risk are the people that this movement is centered around. They have the most say in what is being done on campus as well as off campus.”

Students left class, work, or whatever they were doing to meet outside the library on the USF Tampa campus for the protest. It consisted of a series of chants as well raising various flags and signs.

Students marched across campus to outside the Marshall Student Center, where they covered their hands in red dye, which Mleczko said was to replicate the blood of Palestinians in Gaza. They then laid under their signs and continued to chant.

People lay under a piece of cloth with words spray painted over it. A sign lays on top of the cloth that says "is soooo enough."
Kayla Kissel
/
WUSF
The protesting students had covered their hands in red dye and laid underneath their cloth signs. They continued chanting as they initiated the "die-in."

“We're just trying to symbolize with our slogans, and with our actions, this is more important of an issue than it ever has been,” Mleczko said. “We're still organizing despite maybe the trendiness having left after last semester.”

Mleczko said that Palestinains and activists hope the global strike will encourage local communities to work together to get their government to call for a ceasefire.

A man stands holding a sign that says "stop the genocide."
Kayla Kissel
/
WUSF
Will Mleczko explained to members of the "Students for Socialism" chapter what would be happening during their protest. He handed out signs, including the one he holds.

“A ceasefire is very much a short-term solution, and it doesn't really fix any of the structural issues in Palestine,” Mleczko said. “The main goal (is) just trying to rebuild a movement that can bring some normalcy back into the lives of these people.”

Some supporters of the strike said they have faced backlash for their public support, like death threats or doxxing (sharing private information on the internet).

“There's a lot of pushback online, because people are most comfortable online to share their opinions,” Mleczko said. “People are more comfortable saying xenophobic things online about Palestinians or Arabs or Muslims."

Two women stand and hold a Palestinian flag between them
Kayla Kissel
/
WUSF
Protesters held up Palestinian flags and followed along with chants from Will Mleczko.

But he said the USF and Tampa Bay area organizations will continue planning future protests.

“It's really important that oppressed peoples are liberated, that oppressed peoples have the right to self determination and the right to just live decent lives,” Mleczko said. “Seven thousand miles away seems far, but we can definitely feel what is happening, and we just want to do whatever we can to spread the message.”

Kayla Kissel is a WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for spring of 2024.