Palestine Labor Abolition Affinity groups Commentary

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April 28, 2024

Alumni shut down Pomona parade with divestment banner

The disruption is alumni's second divestment protest of the weekend, after a dinner walkout Friday night.

Undercurrents staff
Dozens of alumni held a banner across College Ave to block the Alumni Weekend parade.

On April 27, dozens of alumni and students formed a line blocking the annual alumni weekend parade, holding a large banner that read “PO Funds Genocide, Divest Now.” Students also re-erected an eight-panel Mock Apartheid Wall between the traditional college gates, which Pomona administrators previously had taken down from Smith Campus Center on April 5.

Some alumni were able to push through the banner with the help of Campus Safety officers and private security staff members, but most were forced to turn around and re-route down Seventh Street.

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After the procession ended, alumni organizers gave speeches calling for Pomona to divest and calling on fellow alumni to withhold donations.

“It is clear that Gabi Starr and the Board of Trustees refuse to acknowledge the movement for Palestinian liberation as global and intergenerational. She wants to believe that we alumni would not be in solidarity with the students arrested, with the students all across militarized college campuses being brutalized by the police, and most importantly with the Palestinian people fighting relentlessly for their liberation,” said David Berkinsky ‘19. “Fuck your weekend, fuck your donations, and divest now.”

David Berkinsky ’19, pictured holding the megaphone, is now a graduate student at MIT and an organizer with MIT Jews for Ceasefire.

Noel Rodriguez ’89, a union organizer with UNITE HERE!, connected the fight for divestment on campus to Los Angeles hotel workers’ strikes for fair wages. UNITE HERE! also represents dining workers at Pomona and dining, custodial and facilities workers at Pitzer.

“I come today having spent the last nine months on strike with hotel workers in Los Angeles,” Rodriguez said. “Despite threats of arrest from police and hotel owners, they’ve stood their ground, they prevailed, they’ve won. When we fight and when we speak and when we refuse to be silenced, we win.”

Noel Rodriguez ’89 is now a union organizer with UNITE HERE!, which led 10,000 hotel workers across Los Angeles on strike in the past year.

Rodriguez said that when he was a Pomona student, the school was invested in the South African apartheid regime, and students organized to pressure then-President David Alexander to divest.

“We built a shanty there in front of President Alexander’s [house]. We called on the college to divest,” he said. “This is an intergenerational movement [that] we carry with us and we represent. And when we fight, we really adhere to the values that the college says it stands for, but doesn’t. But that’s okay. We do. And we’re gonna keep fighting and keep struggling. Again, I couldn’t be prouder to be with you guys today.”

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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