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Cal Poly Humboldt students occupy administration building in solidarity with Palestine and university encampments

By Rick Toledo

Students hold off police in pro-Palestine building occupation. | Fight Back! News/staff

Arcata, CA – On Monday, April 22, around 4 p.m., roughly 30 students began a sit-in in Siemens Hall at Cal Poly Humboldt, California, to show solidarity with Palestine and with other campuses that are doing the same. While many students on other campuses are setting up encampments, theirs is the first in the movement to take over a building so far, and an admin building, no less. This also made them the first state university to join the movement.

At the start, protesters were demonstrating inside the building, sitting together, and chanting. Police soon arrived, they attempted to drag the students out and destroy the barrier that they had set up using chairs inside the building.

At the peak of the protest, students inside reinforced their barricade – while outside student activist Jasmine Jolly led chants to keep people united. She chanted on the megaphone, “Link your arms, hold the line, protect your families,” and could be heard throughout the quad as protesters followed suit. There is no doubt that the actions of activists like herself helped to rally the crowd and defend the occupiers inside of the building.

When asked about the protest, Jolly stated, “I am a part of this protest because I dream of a free Palestine and an end to the unjust Israeli occupation. I hope that this message of hope and resilience gets out to other students across the nation. I hope that it shows that we, the young people, are changemakers, and revolutionaries; that we are some of the most compassionate and capable people in the world. Fixing the mess that was left by our predecessors means building an equitable future that is actually by and for the people. I am here because we will see a free Palestine in my lifetime.”

Within the building the occupiers linked arms and barricaded the door. They worked together to ensure that the police would not defeat them and put an early end to their powerful movement. Building occupier Olivia Fox (who goes formally by Fox), a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) stated, “Solidarity with our family in occupied Palestine requires us to resist the normalization of mass suffering, genocide and ecocide at the hands of a globalized colonial project, which is currently manifesting itself as the United States/Israel. The distinction between these two is illusory. To stand in solidarity with Palestine requires us to recognize the struggle of all colonized people suffering globally from state violence, displacement and ethnic cleansing. The pattern of colonization is distinct and has manifested itself in the destruction of human life on Earth.”

Police brutally assaulted multiple students, throwing one out of a truck onto the concrete, and bashing a protester's head so hard that it bled. More students arrived to help and together we were able to hold the line and prevent any more arrests or attacks by police. Faculty and CFA also arrived on the scene to demand that the police be called off by the campus administration. Around 11:30 p.m. the police finally went home, and campus was shut down for the foreseeable future. Protesters had won the first round. Students are still occupying the building at the time of the writing of this article and still refuse to leave until their demands are met.

SDS Humboldt member, Rick Toledo, was acting as a legal observer for the event. He was directly in front of the building recording police activity, badge numbers, and their attacks on the innocent students. When asked about the protest, he stated, “The violence, abuses, and crimes that the police committed at the protest mirror the same kind of violence that the Israeli Occupation Force has been using against the indigenous Palestinian people. The students that rose up to the occasion, and challenged business as usual, to stand with the Palestinians are heroic and some of the bravest people that I know. The response of the administration and the police demonstrates utter cowardice and a complete disconnect from what this university is supposed to stand for. No more student repression, no more investing in genocide, no more pretending to be inclusive while stabbing BIPOC in the back – it’s time for a change, and its time for the admin to finally listen to the students for once.”

The students are now calling their collective movement “Occupy Cal Poly Humboldt” and have set up an official Instagram for it. All students involved have taken a major step towards a free Palestine and a more equitable university. The sit-in is ongoing and in order for students to leave the building they are requesting that the campus administration at least meet some of their demands and begin negotiations with them. Until then, they plan to remain indefinitely. In the meantime, the students have invited more protesters to join in and students, community members, and faculty have all pitched in to provide resources and support to this ongoing show of student power and solidarity.

Their current five demands are as follows: First, the full divestment of the university from anything profiting off of or associated with Israel, including weapons manufacturers, exploitation of the West Bank as well as any firms that invest in those activities; second, they want the university to boycott all Israeli academic institutions and sever any academic ties with them; third, to publicly call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza; fourth, to give assurances that there will be no charges, either criminal charges or disciplinary action taken against any protesters; and fifth, to either amend or remove the time, manner or place clause which allows them to call the police on students for organizing in ways that they deem inappropriate.

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