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All Out for Gaza and against Police Repression on May Day

Just hours before May Day, NYPD attacked peaceful pro-Palestinian protesters at Columbia University and City College. As we march for a free Palestine, the working class must also march against the repression faced by those who stand up against the genocide.

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NYPD arrest protesters at City College of New York, CUNY, following a raid on the encampment for Palestine. April 30, 2024.

In what appeared to be a coordinated act of repression, the presidents of both City College and Columbia University authorized the Strategic Response Group (the counter-terrorism arm of the New York Police Department) and thousands of police to launch violent attacks on their students on the eve of May Day. The students had set up encampments to protest Israel’s genocide in Gaza and demand that their institutions divest from the Zionist state.

At City College of New York (CCNY), hundreds of police brutalized and arrested protesters in front of the college. Dozens of students were also arrested inside the campus and the encampment was cleared by early morning. In his statement to the NYPD, President Vincent Boudreau explicitly stated that he wanted the encampment “dismantled by the beginning of classes on Wednesday,” when students return from Spring Break.

Meanwhile, at Columbia, where the most recent wave of student occupations began, uncountable numbers of police — so many that Columbia student radio WKCR reported they could not even see the road when they arrived — swarmed the campus in riot gear, and invaded Hamilton Hall, where less than 24 hours earlier students had launched an occupation in response to the breakdown of negotiations with the university. The occupation of Hamilton also followed statements by university President Minouche Shafik that the school would begin suspending students who were participating in the occupation unless they agreed to leave voluntarily. Almost in tandem with Shafik’s threats, President Biden, “Genocide Joe” himself, issued yet another condemnation of the occupation at Columbia, claiming, once again without evidence, that the students, many of whom are themselves Jewish, are committing antisemitic acts of hate. The encampment at Columbia was also cleared and hundreds of students were arrested. 

These attacks and escalations against the student movement for the liberation of Palestine reveal the university administrations’ complicity with the imperialist state as well as Israel’s central role as the boot heel of U.S imperialism in the Middle East. The escalations also reveal the degree to which the apparatuses of the state fear the power of the movement for Palestine and the growing anti-war, anti-imperialist student movement it has birthed. 

This repression cannot be allowed to stand. It is an attack on the entire Palestine movement and it is an attack on the right to protest that should enrage the entire working class. The thousands of police who came out to repress the students last night at the behest of university officials will be called on again by city officials and the bosses whenever the working class and oppressed stand up to defend their rights — on the picket line or in the streets.

The student movement has reignited the Palestine movement with dozens of encampments across the country. In the face of brutal repression like we saw last night in New York City, it is clear that the future of the movement depends in large part on the intervention of the working class against such brutal violations of our basic rights. It must defend students and faculty against repression and defy any attempt to punish them for protesting against genocide and against U.S. imperialism, which profits off of the exploitation of workers across the world. This May Day, as we march for a free Palestine, we must also march against the repression faced by those who stand up against the genocide; this defense is key for continuing and expanding the movement.

In response to these attacks and the ongoing genocide being committed by the Israeli state in Gaza — which has killed close to 40,000 Palestinians in less than seven months — workers everywhere must take to the streets to make this May Day a day that the ruling class will never forget. Already at CUNY, hundreds of faculty and staff, members of the PSC CUNY union, are preparing a historic sick-out in protest and are calling on all faculty and their students to come out to May Day and to support the five demands of the occupation. This action, which has shamefully been condemned by the bureaucratic leadership of the union, comes directly out of rank and file organizing among union members who have been actively engaged in the occupation at CCNY. But, while this is an incredibly progressive development, it’s not enough. We need every single New York City and New York state union and worker to heed the call of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions to: 

challenge the status quo in your workplaces and communities, refusing to support violence against Palestinians. Raise your voices and take action to disrupt the flow of commerce and trade that sustains Israel’s military occupation and exploitation of Palestinian workers.

This means no school, no work, no shopping, no business as usual. Today is our day. Today is the workers’ day. Let’s make it count. 

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James Dennis Hoff

James Dennis Hoff is a writer, educator, labor activist, and member of the Left Voice editorial board. He teaches at The City University of New York.

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