Stanford Students Revive Pro-Palestine Protest

3 mins read

*Some interviewees have pseudonyms to protect their confidentiality.

On Thursday, April 24, Stanford students revived a pro-Palestine protest in the university’s White Plaza. Previously, the same student organizations led a 120-day “Sit-In to Stop Genocide.” Though the sit-in was the longest in University history, its violation of Stanford’s overnight camping policy ultimately led to action from administration that ended the demonstration this February.

The demonstration’s resurgence comes as a wave of student-led pro-Palestine protests have swept universities across the nation. Demonstrators also felt pressured to act amid the arrival of prospective Stanford students for the university’s Admit Weekend. Vi, a Stanford student and organizer of the demonstration, explained, “We want to make sure that prospective students know that they are coming to a campus where there’s a lot of solidarity for the Palestinian people.”

Though the demonstration initially began as a rally advocating for Stanford to divest from companies supporting the Israeli government like Hewlett-Packard, it quickly became a large encampment. “We hadn’t decided on the overnight component. But community members on their own brought tents and started setting up for the People’s University of Palestine. We had the numbers, we had the support, so we decided to stay,” Laura*, an organizer of the demonstration, explained.

Protest sign at Stanford University that reads "While you're eating, Gazans are Starving. Israel denies aid.
Protestors hold a banner near the White Plaza encampment.

According to an email sent to organizers from Stanford President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez, the encampment directly violated six university policies. In response to this violation, the university threatened students with “a referral to the Office of Community Standards (OCS) student conduct process and could also result in arrest if laws are violated.”

Vi explained that the university was also putting the student leaders of the demonstration under academic review. She claimed that these students could potentially face suspension due to their participation in the protest.

However, many organizers have claimed that the Stanford administration has been distributing punishments based on racial profiling and has been disciplining students not responsible for the encampment. “[Stanford] handed a letter from the Office of Community Standards to the president of the Muslim Student Union, who was not sleeping overnight and was not involved with planning the encampment, which is racist and Islamophobic,” Laura said.

Additionally, the university has heightened the presence of local campus security and private security from APEX Security Group. According to Laura, law enforcement allegedly “showed up at 7 a.m. and walked through the encampments, intimidating people, asking people for their IDs, and making fun of people.”

The M-A Chronicle reached out to Stanford University for comment but received no response.

Iman*, a community member present at the encampment, said she first learned of the demonstration through social media. “I’m not related to Palestine and I’m not Jewish, but I don’t think genocide is ever okay. Schools shouldn’t take your money and spend it on war instead of things like free housing,” she said.

Protest sign by Stanford students that reads "Israel Bombs, Stanford Profits"
Student protestors put up a banner in the White Plaza encampment .

In addition to occupying the plaza’s lawns, the organizers arranged a variety of activities for protesters and community members including meditation, music, drumming, and more. Different student organizations also pitched in to provide free meals to the demonstrators and organized a flea market for aid in Gaza. Each day, the student coalition releases a daily program with scheduled activities on their Instagram.

Organizers also created an 85-page “Disorientation Guide” that they passed out to prospective Stanford students. The booklet, “Welcome to the People’s University for Palestine,” outlined the university’s involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict and its history with student protest and social justice issues.

In contrast to the previous sit-in, which advocated for five different demands, the current encampment has one main focus: divestment. “There’s a very clear connection that Stanford has, as a multibillion-dollar institution, to other industries that are involved in the genocide of the Palestinian people,” Vi claimed. “The military-industrial complex is a very big thing in the Bay Area, there’s weapons manufacturers here like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Tesla. All of these are also people that actively recruited Stanford students and also funded pockets of Stanford and their endowments.”

Like Vi and other demonstrators, Laura recognizes the power Stanford holds internationally. “Stanford has a lot of influence. There’s a reason people are here. There’s a reason there are so many community members present at all times. People are watching Stanford all the time. It is our responsibility to use these eyes, and use them to end the genocide in Palestine.”

Gaby is a sophomore at M-A and is in her second year of journalism. This year, she is looking forward to writing about local and on campus issues. In her free time she likes to listen to music, run, and spend time with friends.

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