Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - It was chilly and windy in front of Main Hall at the University of Montana on Wednesday afternoon as a crowd of nearly 100 students and activists gathered to protest what they termed the human rights violations in Gaza committed by Israel since the Hamas attack in October.

I spoke with Linnea, who acted as the leader of the demonstration with various chants echoed by the fully masked protesters, along with some in the very light crowd.

About 100 individuals Lined up in front of UM's Main Hall for the Protest

“We're a really diverse group of students who are just really united in our solidarity with Palestine and our commitment to preserving human rights,” began Linnea. “There have been countless human rights violations in Gaza, and a number of war crimes committed on the Gaza population. We're here to talk about the war crimes, the targeting of hospitals, the targeting of doctors, the targeting of journalists, which are all war crimes, and Israel is facing no repercussions for their actions on the international stage.

As the protest was in full voice, one lone Jewish man, who identified himself as John Murphy, proudly displayed a large Israeli flag, as he defied the protesters.

Credit: Peter Christian
Credit: Peter Christian

One Man Waving an Israeli Flag Walked in front of the Protesters

I spoke with Murphy as the protesters continued to shout.

“I'm here trying to support all the Jewish Americans and Jews around the world who are facing a lot of anti-Semitism mixed in with convoluted messages like they're putting out here today,” began Murphy. "Basically, I'm supporting Israel and that it has a right to exist. You can disagree with some of its policies, but it has a right to exist. I was the only one here last time protesting them, too. But I'll take the hate; us Jews are used to it.”

One of the demands made by the protesters was that the University Foundation divest itself of any investments in weapons manufacturers. UM spokesman Dave Kuntz provided this comment after the event.

“After the event, the board of directors for the UM Foundation, which is a separate entity that supports the University of Montana for philanthropic and financial investments, was able to confirm that there are no investments in the university's endowment right now that support the weapons manufacturers that the students were making actions for,” said Kuntz.

UM Professor Mehrdad Kia Decried the Shouting Match and Urged a Dialogue

I also spoke with UM History Professor Mehrdad Kia, was has communicated with news outlets all over the world about the Hamas-Israel conflict since the original attack in October. Kia said

“I think it might be far more helpful if we use these opportunities to educate ourselves to read a little bit more; to discuss a little bit more, and of course to debate as well,” said Kia. “But instead of a shouting match, it should be a debate in order for us to develop our own understanding and to become a little bit more mature about complex issues globally and internationally.”

Kuntz said the rally and protest was peaceful and there were no physical altercations, and just to make sure, I saw a Missoula Police Department vehicle parked nearby.

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Gallery Credit: Katelyn Leboff

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