Palestine Labor Abolition Affinity groups Commentary

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Palestine

February 25, 2024

270+ students walk out in the rain to support Pomona divestment, protest disciplinary action against students

"My disciplinary sanctions do not scare me...we are more powerful together. We keep each other safe."

Undercurrents staff

“On this President’s Day intended to celebrate the brilliance of our renowned leaders, we condemn all presidents, including our very own president, Gina Gabrielle Star”. 

More than 270 Claremont students walked out of their classes on Feb. 19 and rallied on Marston Quad in the rain to support an ASPC referendum calling on the school to divest from Israeli apartheid. Speakers read statements written by some of the 11 students who have faced disciplinary hearings from Pomona College due to their presence at pro-Palestine actions last semester. 

The walkout was the second Pomona divestment escalation action of the semester, following a delegation of over 100 students to Alexander Hall on Feb. 9 and a long series of rallies and disruptions in the fall.

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The speakers highlighted Pomona president Gabi Starr’s continuous dismissal of calls for divestment from Israel and lack of acknowledgement of the ongoing Palestinian genocide. Since Oct. 7, the IDF has killed more than 29,313 Gazans, including 12,150 children. 

ASPC, Pomona College’s student government, hosted the referendum in order to gauge Pomona student opinion on divestment from Israel, disclosure of Pomona’s investments, and academic boycotts of Israeli universities. The referendum was endorsed by 34 Claremont organizations and follows other BDS referendums at Brown, Columbia, and UCLA

On Feb. 16, Starr sent out an open letter to the Pomona community about the referendum, saying she was “saddened that the ASPC Senate has decided to proceed, because I believe that the referendum will be painful for our community.”

Shouting through megaphones amidst the heavy patter of rain on umbrellas, student speakers at the walk-out responded directly to this statement. “Let me tell you what is painful, Starr’s lack of acknowledgement for what the past four months have been. A genocide of the Palestinian people. [Starr’s] systemic backing of the Zionist regime, masked by a dismissal of responsibility exemplified in her claim that she does not think anything that Pomona College does can produce a ceasefire.”

Speakers pointed out that Starr’s language was similar to that of former Pomona President David Alexander, who refused to divest  from South Africa apartheid after a similar student referendum in 1995. He claimed that divestment would not help South Africa and only did so after being legally mandated by California Assembly bill 134. 

“Oppression is characteristic of Pomona as a whole. This is not unique,” they said.  

Four students then spoke on behalf of the students currently facing disciplinary hearings due to their presence at pro-Palestine actions. 

The speakers underscored how the “disciplinary hearings were designed to separate us, to make us too fearful to continue to actively oppose the cold-blooded murder and genocide that Pomona paid for”.

“They do not care for us. They serve their bosses, the board of trustees, and the 1% of this empire. They do not care for liberation, for the rights of the most marginalized as they sit in their ivory tower.” 

The speakers also highlighted how eight out of the eleven students facing disciplinary actions are students of color, demonstrating Pomona’s history of racial profiling. They referenced the arrest of a brown Pomona professor for “trespassing” while he was playing music and directing students to a pro-Palestine action last November. 

Despite these scare tactics, a speech directed to Pomona emphasized, “You place barricades and cops with body cameras at Alexander Hall because you fear the will of the people. You cannot and will not stop this global movement. For Palestine and all nations under the boot of the American Empire and imperialism, my disciplinary sanctions do not scare me, and they definitely should not scare any of us. We are more powerful together. We keep each other safe.”

Another student speaker posed a series of questions to the members of the Pomona administration to highlight their hypocrisy, asking “How does it feel as the IOF drops bombs turning universities like this to rubble, ripping bodies limb from limb and making orphans out of children? How does it feel that all you can do is punish your community members for bringing it to your attention? I ask you, is that the proper way to criticize a genocide?” 

After the speeches, the students had everyone take out their phones to vote on the referendum which had just been re-released. 

They highlighted the importance of the referendum saying, “Pomona College students have the historic opportunity to vote on the issue of the college’s financial disclosure, academic boycott, and divestment from weapons manufacturers and any company supporting the apartheid state of Israel and its ongoing genocide in Gaza.”

The speakers concluded, “We are here to show Pomona that repression will not dissuade us. It will not work. We will not be scared by their punitive scare tactics. We will show up rain or shine until Pomona discloses, divests, and adheres to an academic boycott that publicly calls for a ceasefire, publicly condemns Israel’s apartheid and genocide, and institutes anti-discrimination policies that actually work.”

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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

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