On Thursday, students drew 11,000 keys outside the entrance of South Dining Hall to commemorate the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza since Oct. 7., the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. For Gaza’s more than 2 million inhabitants, the death count equates to one out of every 200 people.
Blair Kedwell, president of Student Voices for Palestine (SVP), said the demonstration was a collaboration between SVP and two other student organizations: Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy and SolidarityND.
Kedwell said the keys hold symbolic meaning for the Palestinian people, who were forcibly expelled from their homes during the Nakba in 1948.
“[Palestinians] kept with them their keys with the hope of one day being able to return home, but then none of them were able to return home. So, they kept the keys for generations and handed them down,” Kedwell said. “It’s a big symbol of Palestinian resistance and that existence is resistance.”
The 11,000 individual keys now chalked across the sidewalk serve to symbolize the scope of the deaths and publicly advocate for a ceasefire, Kedwell added.
The decision to draw the keys outside South Dining Hall was also deliberate.
“We specifically drew them out of South because we knew that’s where a lot of foot traffic was … People are often set up out front of South on Friday so we knew it would get a lot of attention,” Kedwell said.