Violent Repression & Criminalization of Student Sit-ins Echoes Dark Moments in Our History



Today, over 45 Yale University students were arrested for “trespassing” on their own campus as they camped outside of the university offices demanding transparency in university investments as well as divestment from weapons companies powering Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza. Last week, over 100 Columbia University students were arrested for the same as university officials directed police to force students to cease their protest—infringing on the students’ First Amendment rights and threatening their academic futures. 

The lesson from these campuses is clear: elite universities are leading the way in unrelenting repression of peaceful Palestine solidarity protestors and are attempting to force students to choose between a moral protest and their educational or professional futures. This is dangerous and blatant repression—and it’s a threat to academic freedom and democracy nationwide. But students against the genocide refuse to be intimidated, and people of conscience nationwide have their backs. 

We have seen this repression before in some of the darkest moments of US history over the past century: civil rights and anti-war protestors banded together in the 1960s to call for an end to the War in Vietnam—similarly staging sit-ins on campuses across the country. Like now, students faced severe tactics of repression through criminalization, violent arrest, disbandment of activist groups, suspensions, and even physical attacks by police. President Nixon made it his goal to kill the anti-war protest movement—and failed. 

Efforts to stop campus protests of the genocide in Gaza and university complicity in injustice will fail to stop our movement. 

These peaceful student protestors stand firmly within the legacy of resilient and successful direct action against horrific and immoral warfare in Gaza. “McCarthyism” has been an apt term in recent months for the witch hunt of student activists and university presidents who do not suppress Gaza solidarity protests enough. However, what’s even more concerning is that Zionist activists have called for the FBI and National Guard to be deployed against students—a move eerily reminiscent of violence against anti-war student activists that ended in the murder of 13 Kent University students by National Guardsmen in 1970. Administrators should learn from history and protect—not suppress—students’ academic and First Amendment freedoms. 

We know that the foundation for such repression is anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian racism that casts the victims of Israel’s war as less human and casts these peaceful protests as unruly, angry and unreasonable. But the violence and racism of these institutions will not go unchecked.

We stand firmly alongside these students and will continue to shed light on this anti-democratic repression that threatens the sanctity of the university and peaceful protest nationwide. We call on universities to stand on the right side of history and heed these students’ demands, cease their repression, and stand on the side of truth and justice as Israel continues its campaign which has killed 15,000 children in Gaza and tens of thousands of civilians.