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Police Arrest and Pepper Spray Protesters at CCNY after CUNY Encampment Votes to Stay

After threats from CUNY officials earlier in the day, NYPD opened up a wave of repression against protesters at the City College of New York and threaten to move in on the encampment.

Sybil Davis

April 30, 2024
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This evening repression exploded at the City College of New York (CCNY) Gaza Solidarity Encampment and on the street outside campus. Following threats by the administration to clear the encampment before classes start again on Wednesday and a vote from the encampment to continue the protest, NYPD rushed to CCNY in droves to repress a protest in solidarity outside and seem poised to clear the encampment. As of the time of writing, police have already begun pepper spraying and arresting protesters outside campus. The New York Times is reporting that cops in riot gear have entered CCNY.

The CCNY encampment began last Thursday morning and quickly gathered hundreds of supporters. Unlike other New York City encampments, which are taking place on “closed” campuses (meaning that only those with university IDs are allowed to enter), CCNY is an open campus and was able to call on its community to support the students. This support has made the CCNY encampment truly a community encampment, as do the demands of the encampment. These demands include divestment from and a boycott of Israel, but also includes the demand for a “People’s CUNY” where tuition is free, students are given free metrocards, and the contract demands of the workers are met. Particularly inspiring at the CCNY encampment has been the active participation of staff and faculty and the emergence of bodies of self-organization to debate and decide the path ahead for the encampment. Just yesterday, over 100 workers affiliated with the PSC-CUNY (Professional Staff Congress), voted to support the five demands of the students and to try to organize a sickout on Wednesday — May Day — to support the global demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine called by the Palestinian unions and against repression. 

On Monday, CUNY administration sent  a threatening email demanding that members of the encampment disperse before classes begin tomorrow, citing dangers to the community and the presence of people who are not affiliated with CUNY or City College. CCNY officials also announced on Monday that it was temporarily closing the campus food pantry, stating that the encampment allegedly made it impossible to staff it. 

In response, on Tuesday, the encampment held an assembly to decide their course of action. After an open discussion, the assembly voted on whether to leave the encampment or defy the university’s threats of repression; they rejected claims that community supporters are not part of the CUNY community, instead saying that it is the police who are the threat and the police who are outside the protest. Those present voted overwhelmingly to stay. Chants of “we will stay” rang out through the encampment — the same words that protesters chanted the first day when CUNY public safety officers threatened to disband the protest.

As  CUNY students and supporters are being repressed, Columbia University is in direct contact with the NYPD, and a sweep of the encampment is imminent.  These actions were taken after students decided to occupy  Hamilton Hall, the historic building occupied in 1968 against the war in Vietnam. The repression against the students violates the elementary right to protest. It shows that the government and the regime have nothing to offer the millions of people outraged by Israel’s onslaught in Palestine other than repression at home and weapons to carry out the genocide.

That the encampment voted to remain is a testament to the participants’ bravery and fighting spirit. It is vital that the entire NYC community and those around the country and the world say loudly and firmly that there should be no repression — legal, professional, educational, or otherwise — of the CCNY encampment and protests and that the protesters be allowed to remain. It is a matter of the right to free speech, of free assembly, and of the right to protest. These rights are under attack all across the country as university administrations and the state collaborate to repress protesters by the thousands. 

It is urgent that the students, faculty, and staff  of CUNY as well as their community allies receive broad support and that this support be expressed forcefully against the repression, in defense of the camp, against all arrests, and for the police to immediately leave the university.

From CCNY to Columbia, UT Austin to Emory, USC to Emerson, IU to NYU, down with repression! We must all unite to protect the right to protest!

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Sybil Davis

Sybil is a trans activist, artist, and education worker in New York City.

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