Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Portland student activism against Gaza “is here to stay”.

By b0oua Apr 29, 2024
News

Emily, a 20-year-old student studying psychology and art at Portland State University, was looking exhausted on a Saturday morning as she stood behind her barricade in the center of the campus.

“Last night, the police arrived to make us dismantle our camp,” she stated while hiding behind a mask that only revealed a blue, focused expression on her face. We withdrew onto the library steps, where they are unable to interfere. And we shall remain there, I promise you.

This public university in Oregon has joined the growing number of college campuses throughout the nation that have been overrun by student protests over the US government’s backing of Israel’s almost seven-month-long war in the Gaza Strip, as of this past Friday.

The movement began on April 17 at Columbia University in New York, where the large-scale mobilization was violently suppressed by the police. Since then, it has expanded to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and the west coast, where tents have grown amid Palestinian flags and signs demanding an end to the conflict in the Gaza enclave on university grounds.

The massive manufacturer of aircraft and military hardware, Boeing, is another target of the mobilization in Portland. It is a large employer in the area and a generous donor to State University, which student pacifist groups would want to see relocate. With a keffiyeh, a symbol of the Palestinian independence movement, wrapped over his head, anthropology student Jeffrey declared, “He is a manufacturer of weapons that are used to destroy Gaza and starve civilians there.” His money is not what we want.

A number of institutions have issued orders in the past several days to dismantle camps on their property, even requesting assistance from riot police to do so. Over a hundred students were taken into custody at Northeastern University in Boston early on Saturday morning. They are accused of inappropriate behavior and trespassing. The organization said that “professional activists” with no connection to the university would have “infiltrated” the previous protests and threatened Jews. In a press release carried on the X network, management expressed concern, saying, “We cannot tolerate this kind of hatred on our campus.”

Indiana University in Bloomington put up a camp the day before, and on Saturday they detained twenty-three people. They faced accusations of obstructing law officers and criminal trespass. Amidst the intensifying anti-war protests, the University of Southern California postponed its commencement ceremony, citing “new security measures.”

In an interview with Le Devoir from her campus, where tension between police and students was increasing on Saturday afternoon, historian Heather Ferguson, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, sums up, “We are experiencing a reconstruction of the student mobilizations of 1968.” If academic administrators had let go of their corporate mindset, remembered that colleges and universities are institutions of education, and acknowledged the humanity of their students who try to protect the rights of Palestinians, none of this would be occurring. Rather, they would rather criminalize their pupils.

Portland State University President Ann Cudd announced via email on Thursday that Boeing’s contributions to the university would be halted. She cited “the passion repeatedly expressed by some members of the university community” on this issue. The email was sent to all staff, faculty, and students at Portland State University. However, the small group of protestors gathering on the library steps on Saturday felt that the measure was insufficient. Sociology student Jena stated, “A break is not a break in ties,” characterizing the action as a “lure” primarily intended to stifle the mobilization of students summoned to a demonstration on Monday at the conclusion of the day on campus.

As tensions over the military assistance the Biden administration is providing to Ukraine and the US’s backing of Israel’s attacks on Gaza escalate during the presidential campaign, the occupation of college campuses across the nation is starting to make an impact on politics.

The Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, made an appearance on the Columbia University campus in New York last Wednesday. He denounced the mayhem brought about by the pro-Palestinian demonstrations and demanded that Minouche Shafik, the university president, “restore order immediately” or step down. For its part, the White House intends to limit Joe Biden’s attendance at graduation ceremonies on the college campuses that the president usually visits at this time of year to give remarks.

To “transmit an encouraging message […] for graduates and their families,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre, however, reaffirmed a few days ago that he had every intention of attending the May graduation ceremony at Morehouse College and the Military Academy at American University of West Point. She continued, “He will try his hardest to address the suffering that some communities are going through and what is occurring [on campuses].”

According to a recent Harvard University survey, despite the violent crackdown on student protests that has occurred on multiple campuses since April 17, young people under 30 continue to strongly support Joe Biden. When it comes to these voters’ intentions to vote, the Democrat leads Donald Trump by thirty points.

According to this survey, 18- to 29-year-olds also rank women’s reproductive rights, access to healthcare, gun violence, inflation, democracy preservation, and climate change as their top electoral concerns, even ahead of the Gaza War.

Emily said on Saturday on the Portland State University campus that organizing students to oppose the war was not a simple process. She claimed that “many people don’t even know where Palestine is or what it represents.” However, this does not excuse us from speaking out against famine, bombings, and drone strikes on civilian targets—of which we have now become complicit.

“We’re going to stay here until Joe Biden finally listens to us,” she continued. and alter its guidelines.

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By b0oua

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