Palestine Labor Abolition Affinity groups Commentary

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April 13, 2024

700 walk out for divestment, days after Pomona’s arrest of 20 students

“We don’t want to hear a word about arrests or suspensions or bans unless in the same breath you’re condemning Israeli apartheid, occupation, and genocide," one arrestee said.

Samson Zhang

Pomona Divest from Apartheid saw its biggest action turnout yet as around 700 students, faculty and other Claremont community members marched out from around campus on April 11, demanding divestment in solidarity with the 20 students that Pomona arrested during a sit-in on April 5.

The block-spanning crowd marched from Honnold-Mudd library down to College Ave in front of Alexander Hall, where last Friday 26 police vehicles and dozens of police officers in riot gear had locked down the street, and participated in a brief sit-down traffic disruption.

The crowd’s signs included posters comparing photos of the riot police response to photos of the IOF, as well as cardboard cutouts of Pomona President Gabi Starr and Pomona trustees’ faces.

The crowd initially gathered and chanted in front of Honnold-Mudd Library and listened to speeches from arrestees. Several arrestees who were Pomona students, still banned from all the Claremont Colleges while on interim suspension, had their speeches read out by other students.

Speakers centered demands for divestment in their speeches.

“We don’t want to hear a word about arrests or suspensions or bans unless in the same breath you’re condemning Israeli apartheid, occupation, and genocide, and calling for complete divestment from Israeli weapons manufacturers, Palestine-occupying institutions, for an academic boycott, for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, and for anti-discrimination policies for Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, SWANA, Black, Brown and Indigenous students,” one arrestee said.

Two students delivered speeches written by Black arrestees, criticizing Starr’s repeated emphasis on a student using a racial slur at at Black administrator on April 5. The student who used the term was Black, a fact that Starr never mentioned.

“This is a special fuck you, Gabi Starr, from the Black Community,” one speech started. “Millionaire Black people like Starr are not one of us. They are not with us. And they’re not our community. They are fully fledged members of the elite and uphold every system that massacres and genocides our people in the US and abroad. It was glaringly obvious when she defended Pomona College’s investments in the Zionist settler colonial entity with 20 plus pigs in riot gear and armed with semi-automatic weapons. Sure, the pig that put the cuffs on me was white, but who authorized, orchestrated, and called for my violent arrest? A glaring example of the black misleadership class.”

“President Gabi Starr cries from the master’s house that we refuse to identify ourselves,” another speaker on behalf of an arrested Black student said, referring to Starr’s repeated emphasis on the student protesters being “unidentified, masked individuals.” “She understands the basic concepts of apartheid well, to remove the unwanted, to clean and clear the way for rich, white folks.”

Speakers also spoke about the violence of the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Since Oct. 7, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza.

“Any repression we face here pales in comparison to the treatment of Palestinians at Israeli universities, like the University of Haifa. Our sit-in was one drop in an ocean indebted to and aligned with the Palestinian led worldwide boycott, divest and sanction movement,” one student said.

“This protest has shown one thing: that President Starr is a fascist Zionist asset who will stop at nothing to uphold the status quo of the Imperial corpse funding the genocidal occupation that calls itself Israel. History will remember her as nothing more than a vicious defender of a crumbling empire,” another arrested student said at the rally.

Note: this article was completed and uploaded to the website on June 17, 2024, but backdated to April 13, 2024 to match the date that the Instagram post, which contained a partial version of this article, was published.

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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

Setting the Standard

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

Read issue 1