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Students Protest Starbucks in Support of Palestinians

Students Protest Starbucks in Support of Palestinians

On Nov. 1st, even grabbing a latte on campus became contentious amid the horrific war in Israel and Gaza.

About 25 students protested outside Starbucks after the chain filed a lawsuit against union workers who publicly expressed their support of Palestinians in Gaza. According to Starbucks, the union falsely portrayed itself on X (formerly Twitter) as a representative of the company, and that portrayal negatively affected business. (The Union has countersued the coffee chain.)

For about three hours, students stood outside the entrances to Starbucks and Hannon Library holding informational posters and leading chants supporting Palestinians.

Photo Credit: Caroline Baker

One sign read, “Enough is enough. Free Palestine. Boycott Starbucks.”

“Free free Palestine,” rang one of the chants. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Sophia Hutton, a senior communication studies major, organized the demonstration.

“My peers and I have felt helpless like there’s nothing we can do to help Palestinian liberation,” Hutton said. “I wanted to conduct this demonstration in solidarity and to show that every LMU student can affect change daily by not spending their money at companies like Starbucks.”

On Oct. 9 the Starbucks Worker United account posted “Solidarity with Palestine” on X. The tweet was up for only 40 minutes before being taken down, but two days later, Starbucks filed a lawsuit against the union alleging that “a pro-Palestinian social media post from a union account early in the Israel-Hamas war angered hundreds of customers and damaged [Starbucks’] reputation.” In response to the suit, the union filed its own complaint claiming Starbucks’ public statements defamed the union and its members in saying they support “terrorism, hate, and violence.”

For about three hours, demonstrators urged students entering Starbucks instead to get coffee at The Den or The Coffee Cart. Students simply walking by often stared at the scene as they went, and a few stopped to ask questions about what was happening and why. At one point a group of four people walked by and started clapping for the chants. 

Several students making their way into Starbucks responded to the protestors’ pleas to avoid the restaurant, walking away to presumably get their coffee elsewhere. 

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At one point a student with an opposing view began yelling at the demonstrators. A protestor approached the student and offered her an informational sheet, which sparked an argument. During the exchange, Rabbi Zachary Zysman walked over and put his arm around the student who’d approached the protestors and led her away.

Four LAPD officers stood by as the demonstration unfolded. Two members of LMU’s Department of Public Safety did not provide an answer to The Lion as to why or how they [LAPD] had arrived.

“Thankfully they didn’t give me any trouble, but they [LAPD] were surrounding us,” Hutton said. “I was just surprised with the amount of them there were, both LAPD and DPS.”

LAPD’s purpose at the demonstration was not an effort to shut it down, rather they were there to make sure nothing got out of control. Hutton said a DPS officer told her they were to ensure nothing got out of hand.

Photo Credit: Caroline Baker

“We can spend our money at other places on campus,” said senior Arlan Yerby. “It’s a change we can make today, and students can do this now and every day.”