A message painted on the Tufts cannon by Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine was anonymously defaced on April 20. Tufts SJP painted the message — which read “Free Palestine” — for Israeli Apartheid Week, the club’s annual series of events raising awareness of “Israel’s apartheid system over the Palestinian people.” The cannon was found covered by blue spray paint on Thursday. The identity of the perpetrator remains unknown.
In a statement on its Instagram account, Tufts SJP expressed its frustration with the defacement.
“Tufts SJP is disappointed and disheartened to learn that the cannon we painted for Israeli Apartheid Week was defaced last night,” the statement read. “This is not the first hateful incident directed at Palestinian students by our fellow students, and it is the second time in the past year that our work has been vandalized.”
The statement referenced a similar defacement that occurred last May, when Tufts SJP painted the cannon in honor of Palestinians who lost their lives in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The cannon was found vandalized with vulgar words and images.
According to the statement, Tufts SJP requested that the Office of Equal Opportunity make a formal investigation into the previous vandalism, but the results were never publicly reported.
“The Tufts Office of Equal Opportunity said they were opening an investigation into the last cannon defacement, yet no report was made public,” the statement read. “We know the administration will not address this act of racism towards Palestinians but instead will continue to smear Palestinians and activists for practicing BDS.”
BDS refers to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, an anti-colonial movement based off the South African anti-apartheid movement, which many Palestinians and SJP groups have adopted as a means of liberation. The practice calls for the boycott of Israeli goods and corporations on both the personal and governmental levels in order to express solidarity with the fight against occupation. Tufts SJP launched its BDS campaign in March.
Tufts Executive Director of Public Relations Patrick Collins noted that because the most recent defacement did not include any instances of vulgar or offensive language, no further action would be taken on behalf of the university.
“The administration only monitors the cannon for hate speech and symbols, or sexually inappropriate graffiti,” Collins wrote in an email to the Daily. “Last year, when crude language and vulgar sexual drawings were used to vandalize SJP’s message on the cannon, the university spoke out strongly against the defacement and investigated. However, in this instance, and with the facts currently available to us, the cannon appears to have been painted over; no hate speech or symbols or sexually inappropriate graffiti were used to our knowledge.”
In this most recent instance of defacement, the words “Free Palestine” and the Palestinian flag appeared to be covered by blue paint with no specific messages or images.
Tufts SJP’s statement closed with a message to students to be conscious of injustices — both on campus and in a global context — and to continue fighting for liberation.
“Despite blatant racism and continued opposition, we believe that justice and liberation will prevail,” the statement read. “We encourage our allies and those who support Palestinian liberation to call out injustice and racism when they see or hear it around campus.”