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Home / News / Politics / Pro-Palestinian encampment returns to Pomona College ahead of commencement

Pro-Palestinian encampment returns to Pomona College ahead of commencement

by Joe Taglieri
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Pro-Palestinian protesters on Monday encamped on and around the stage designated for this weekend’s Pomona College commencement ceremony.

The demonstrators said Tuesday they would defy orders to vacate the area and disrupt graduation activities if the college does not commit to divesting its finances from companies and weapons makers that have ties to Israel.

“Students are prepared to defend the encampment until their demands are met, and call upon the college to heed the overwhelming support for divestment in their community,” according to a statement by Pomona Divest from Apartheid.

Pomona College officials released this response statement: “Our students, faculty, staff and alumni hold a range of viewpoints. Throughout the year, college leaders have offered to meet with student protesters and will continue to do so. We will promote safety for all members of our community and pursue our educational mission, considering the full range of viewpoints.”

In email addressed to the “Pomona Community” on Monday, college administrator Avis Hinkson, wrote, “Please avoid the encampment area, and we ask that everyone maintain an atmosphere that supports our community of students, faculty and staff, particularly as finals week continues. Campus buildings are shifting to swipe access as a precaution. Safety for all members of our community is our priority.”

This week’s encampment, which according to published reports began to crop up around 5 a.m. Monday, followed a protest in early April in which students were arrested while doing a sit-in at Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr’s office.

“Starr called in 30+ riot police to arrest 20 students, 19 of whom were staging a sit-in at Alexander Hall to protest the college’s forceful removal of a mock apartheid wall from Marston Quad,” according to the activist group’s statement. “Students are urging the college not to repeat their mistakes. Gabi Starr, do not opt for violence again. Listen to your community. The choice is yours.”

Protest organizers also urged Starr not to engage in what they said was “unrelenting repression.”

In a statement Starr said some protesters had refused to identify themselves to campus officials and “proceeded to verbally harass staff, even using a sickening, anti-Black racial slur in addressing an administrator. This is part of an escalating series of incidents on our campus, which has included persistent harassment of visitors for admission tours.”

During the week leading up to the sit-in, “masked individuals who are part of a protest have occupied a portion of the Smith Campus Center (SCC) lawn,” Starr said. “This occupation was against our policies, but as we have expressed in the past, we work with students who are exercising their right to protest unless that protest impedes on the rights of others. In addition, we require all individuals on campus to identify themselves upon request by campus administrators or Campus Safety. This is imperative for the safety of our community, especially when these individuals are masked.”

Pro-Palestine, anti-Israel protests have occupied university campuses nationwide since last month, including at Southern California schools USC, UCLA, UC Riverside and UC San Diego.

Updated May 8, 2024, 11:49 a.m.

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