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April 28, 2024

Pomona alumni join divestment protests, disrupt Alumni Weekend dinner

Around 200 students, faculty and alumni disrupted Pomona’s Alumni Weekend dinner on Friday evening, with alumni giving speeches and leading […]

Undercurrents staff
Pomona alumni led a walkout of the Alumni Weekend All-Class Dinner on Friday night.

Around 200 students, faculty and alumni disrupted Pomona’s Alumni Weekend dinner on Friday evening, with alumni giving speeches and leading a walkout to push for withholding donations until Pomona divests from Israeli apartheid. Over 900 alumni have pledged to withhold donations, one speaker said.

Prior to the disruption, students set up the original eight panels of the mock apartheid wall — which the Pomona administration forcibly took down on April 5 — outside Little Bridges. Student protestors also distributed flyers with information about Pomona’s complicity in genocide and arrest of 20 Claremont students to alumni as they arrived at the dinner.

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At 8:27 p.m., students and alumni entered Marston Quad while chanting and carrying signs calling for divestment.

Three Pomona alumni gave speeches at the podium denouncing Pomona’s arrest of 20 students at the April 5 sit-in, rejecting the conflation between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and calling for other alumni to withhold donations from the college until divestment from apartheid Israel. 

“I’m not powerless, because I am a donor,” Anna Simon-Rooke PO ’04 said. “Just as many, if not all of you, are. Pomona College relies on our donations to function.”

Other alumni talked about their own experiences organizing for Palestinian liberation post-grad. 

“I’m part of the MIT Jews for Ceasefire,” said David Berkinski PO ’19. “We’ve been holding an encampment to demand MIT cuts ties with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. I refuse to have my identity as a Jewish person be used to justify the killing, ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza.”

As the alumni spoke, the event staff appeared to drown out the speeches by increasing the volume of the background music. 

At 8:41 p.m., student protestors and alumni marched out of Marston Quad and convened outside Little Bridges again. Students first read a statement that the 20 arrested students collectively wrote. 

“We do not want to hear a single word about our arrests, suspensions, or campus bans unless you are calling for complete divestment from Israeli Apartheid,” the speaker said on behalf of the arrested students. 

Two other alumni expressed their solidarity with the student protestors. 

“You are not alone in this fight,” one alum said. “What you are doing is having reverberations across the country. More and more campuses are joining you, and when you raise your voices, the administration hears and when things happen, everyone in power hears what you’re doing is mattering.”

The second alum echoed this statement and explained their personal reasons for withholding donations.

“I’m withholding donations to Pomona, to stand in solidarity with the students who are pushing to make the promise of liberal arts a reality, a promise that has been so horrifically failed here over the last several months,” the alum said. “We cannot push this violence away. We cannot ignore it. We have a responsibility and we have a duty. And we must all answer that right now.”

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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