Students at Highland Park High School held a pro-Palestinian walkout Monday afternoon in St. Paul, with close to 200 participating in the hourlong protest.

Several student organizers said they felt inspired after seeing the recent wave of large protests and encampments at colleges in Minnesota and beyond in support of Palestinians caught in the conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas. Specifically, Highland Park senior Hayat Osman said, the idea came after seeing a sit-in protest at St. Catherine University.

"I said, 'We've got to have a protest at our school as well,'" Osman said after the demonstration. "Even if it's small, these small things can create a ripple effect, and that can start conversations within families, in homes and at school as well as with teachers, so we wanted to create more awareness around it."

The students held Palestinian flags, chanted "Free Palestine," and listened to speakers before marching in a circle around the school. Several security guards from St. Paul Public Schools accompanied marchers, who looped around Edgcumbe Road and through the parking lot before returning to the school entrance.

Principal Winston Tucker said in a statement to families that the walkout was not sanctioned or endorsed by St. Paul Public Schools. He added that the district "supports the role of protest in society, in efforts to create change and also respects the rights of those who choose not to participate."

"Each school determines how to respect the choices of students and staff in appropriate ways," Tucker wrote.

Since the conflict began in October, the U.S. Department of Education has reported a rise in complaints of both antisemitism and Islamophobia. In her comments to the crowd, student Maryan Sheikh Abukar condemned both antisemitic and Islamophobic behavior.

The speakers listed demands they sent to school administration, which include requesting the district issue a statement advocating for a cease-fire in the conflict and that it advocate for state and federal funding to be divested from Israel and put into education.

Students held walkout protests at multiple Minnesota high schools in weeks following the Oct. 7 attack and hostage-taking by Hamas in Israel and Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. But there haven't been as many recently. Protests increased in the spring at colleges across the country, where students camped out on campuses and demanded their universities divest from companies that support Israel.