College Students Establish Pro-Palestinian Encampments Nationwide

Leading the charge on anti-war protests, students demand divestment from Israeli connections during Passover.

College Students Establish Pro-Palestinian Encampments Nationwide (Getty Images)

CaliforniaIt has been more than 200 days since the first Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and protests around the United States have only grown more intense. The leaders of this widespread outcry? 

College students. 

Protesters at Columbia University, where the encampment-style protests originated last week, have stated that they will not leave and will continue to peacefully protest until the university commits to severing connections with Israeli universities and pledges to divest from entities linked to Israel. 

This demonstration follows months of demands for university divestment from Palestinian oppression, finally escalating due to administrative silence or repression. Despite facing suspension and arrests, student protesters have maintained their resolve.

Most recently, on April 22, The UC Berkeley Divestment Coalition erected a Free Palestine Encampment on the Mario Savio Steps in front of Sproul Hall. Historically, this location is attributed to the birth of the 1964 Free Speech Movement, where students protested the university’s restrictions on political activities on campus. This encampment has only multiplied in size since its day one.

Their purpose is clear: to occupy the steps until UC Berkeley divests from weapon manufacturers profiting from the war in Gaza, such as BlackRock, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, to name a few. UC Berkeley is the first UC campus and inaugural California college to establish such an encampment, but they are far from the last.

UT Austin, Harvard, Princeton, and Northwestern, among dozens of other universities, have begun to set up camp, leading to hundreds of arrests across the country.  

Recent statements from President Joe Biden have described these university encampments as a hotbed of antisemitic hatred. In a written statement Sunday evening, he wrote, “Even in recent days, we’ve seen harassment and calls for violence against Jews. This blatant antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous – and it has absolutely no place on college campuses, or anywhere in our country.” 

On Wednesday, Joe Biden signed off on $26.4 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones. He also gave financial assistance to Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific region for a total of $95.3 billion in foreign aid.

National Jewish organizations have also called the BDS movement antisemitic, asserting that its goal is to isolate and delegitimize the sole Jewish state.

These concerns about antisemitism on U.S. college campuses are not unfounded. Physical and verbal threats, swastika graffiti, and Holocaust denial pose a danger to Jewish populations. This is a group that has faced historical hatred and brutality all over the world. 

However, many protesters in solidarity with the Palestinian people believe that these abhorrent actions do not represent the larger protests for peace, emphasizing that negative depictions of these peaceful protests further divide and add fuel to the fire.

Aligning with the Passover holiday, we must all reflect on freedom and liberation and lead with kindness to all.

Knives Nguyen (they/he/she), is a journalist from the Bay Area who covers entertainment, culture and student life. You can connect with them on LinkedIn: @knivesnguyen.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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