Palestine Labor Abolition Affinity groups Commentary

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Palestine

November 13, 2023

113 students shut down Pomona Family Weekend Address, demanding divestment from Israel

The action came after students promised escalation in an Oct. 25 delegation attended by at least 370 people.

Undercurrents staff
Photo by Samson Zhang

“How many Gazans have to die / before you hear their freedom cry?”

On the afternoon of Oct. 30, over a hundred students blocked the entrance to Little Bridges auditorium with a two-hour sit-in and picket, forcing Pomona President Gabi Starr to cancel her Parents Weekend address.

The protest came as a follow-up to the 370+ student walkout on Oct. 25, where students delegated to Pomona College COO and Treasurer Jeff Roth. During the delegation at Alexander Hall, students demanded the college disclose its investment portfolio and immediate divestment from Israeli apartheid.

As of Nov. 13, Israeli attacks have killed 11,240 people in Gaza, according to Al Jazeera. A separate Nov. 8 analysis by the most-read newspaper in Norway found that Israeli forces had killed more five-year-olds than Palestinians of any other age.

On Oct. 30, at least 68 students picketed in front of the Little Bridges theater, as 45 students sat to block the entrance. They chanted “from the river to the Sea, Palestine will be free!”, “Stop the violence stop the hate! Israel is an apartheid state!” and other rally calls.

Students also constructed a vigil of flowers, letters, signs and stuffed animals on the steps of Little Bridges. Pomona previously took down a vigil set up across the quad at Smith Campus Center on Oct. 20.

Photo by Samson Zhang

Soon after the protest began, campus safety arrived. An officer approached an Undercurrents reporter, who was wearing a high visibility press vest, and asked if the area could be cleared. Three campus security officers and two private security officers stood by the auditorium throughout the action, but made no further efforts to clear the area.

That morning, Maria Watson, Vice President for Advancement at Pomona, sent out an email warning parents of “encounter[ing] student demonstrations”. The email wrote: “Pomona College has a long tradition of student activism and engagement, and our student body has been active in response to the terrorist attacks and ongoing warfare in the Middle East.” 

A few hours later, Starr sent a follow up email to all parents. The email, sent at 5:08 P.M., stated an expectation for “members of our community to follow our shared standards and allow others a voice as well.”

An anonymous student organizer criticized the college’s failure to name the genocide in Palestine in a statement to Undercurrents.

“In all their messaging [Pomona] has referred to the genocide in Gaza and occupied Palestine as a conflict in the Middle East, and has refused to say the word Palestine or acknowledge what is happening aside from messaging about terror.”

“[They have] also chosen to reduce the action during family weekend to an acknowledgment to the parents that students here get angry about things…as if the reason for demonstrations is not because of the horrifying violence of the settler colonial state of Israel and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”

Campus facilities took down the vigil around 4:30 PM, 90 minutes after the sit-in ended.

Photo by Samson Zhang
Photo by Samson Zhang

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Pomona admin met with Claremont Police Chief days before Alexander Hall sit-in to plan intervention, emails show

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LIVE UPDATES: PDfA sets up Gaza solidarity encampment on Marston Quad at Pomona

Thanks for reading Undercurrents

Undercurrents reports on labor, Palestine liberation, prison abolition and other community organizing at and around the Claremont Colleges.

Issue 1 / Spring 2023

Setting the Standard

How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizing

Read issue 1