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Minneapolis: Campus mobilized around Gaza Solidarity Encampment, 9 arrested

By Gillian Rath

Twin Cities students establish Gaza Solidarity Encampment demanding divestment from apartheid Israel. | Fight Back! News/staff

Minneapolis, MN – On Tuesday, April 23 at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, student activists set up a Gaza Solidarity encampment. This encampment was organized by the UMN Divest Coalition which is made up of Students for a Democratic Society, Students for Justice in Palestine, Young Democratic Socialists of America and Students for Climate Justice. The coalition is pushing for the University of Minnesota to cut ties financially with Israel. This means to divest from weapon manufacturers, stop study abroad trips to Israel and stop having defense companies doing recruitment on campus.

The coalition set up the encampment and pledged to be there until their demands were met or until they were forcibly removed. Other than divestment, specific demands of the encampment included for the administration to put out a statement about the genocide, to stop the attacks on student protesters, to have complete transparency about university budgets, and amnesty for all students and faculty disciplined in the movement for a free Palestine.

The encampment was shut down by police at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning after only being established for a couple hours. In a powerful act of protest, eight U of MN students and one faculty member refused to leave the encampment and were arrested by University of Minnesota police. UMPD then removed all of the tents and tore down the encampment. The students and faculty were arrested for trespassing on their own university and were given a one year ban from campus.

Unlike what we have seen on other college campuses across the country, the students were not given a notice of suspension before their arrest. Joined by other community activists and students, the arrestees were awaited by a small rally of protesters outside the Hennepin County jail when they were released several hours later.

Mira Altobell-Resendez, the UMN faculty member who was arrested, stated, “We stood our ground knowing the potential consequences and were all willing to take them on for the sake of making strides in winning our demands to get UMN to divest from Israel. We knew we’d have the power of the people behind us no matter what because we are all united to see a free Palestine within our lifetimes!”

Outraged by these bogus arrests and the destruction of the Gaza Solidarity Encampment, the UMN divest coalition quickly got to work planning an emergency rally. Later that day at 2 p.m., a protest was held outside the Student Memorial Union. With an upward of 1000 attendees, the protest was well attended by students, faculty and activists from the community. Faculty members and students from the coalition spoke about the power of the student movement and led an excited and energized crowd through pro-Palestine chants such as “Disclose! Divest! We will not stop, we will not rest!”

After the rally, attendees helped the coalition re-establish the encampment. Other organizations brought yurts and tipis and other camping tents to occupy the university lawn. Jewish Voices for Peace led the crowd in an anti-Zionist seder to celebrate Passover on the lawn. Workshops were led by other community members and members of the movement. Minneapolis City Council member Robin Wonsely and U.S. House Representative Ilhan Omar spoke and shared their support for the student movement on the U of MN campus.

The day was long and busy with arrests at the morning encampment, a contingent at the jail, a large rally on campus and a night filled with pro-Palestine activities on a once again occupied lawn. What the student movement did through hard work and organizing was bring the community together and mobilized hundreds around a campaign that will bring us one step closer to a free Palestine.

#MinneapolisMN #MN #StudentMovement #International #Palestine #AntiWarMovement #SDS #UMNDivest #SJP #YDSA #SFCJ #Feature