The Student News Site of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Sentinel

The Student News Site of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Sentinel

The Student News Site of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Sentinel

CUNY Rank and File Call for Palestinian Liberation at City College Encampment

Disclaimer: The John Jay Sentinel is an independent publication and is therefore not subject to any opinion regarding this matter. All opinions expressed by interviewees are entirely their own.
Laila Mansour
Encampment at The City College of New York.

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has been a significant source of discussion as well as rising tension on CUNY campuses.

Encampments have been established at college campuses across the country in efforts to express solidarity with Palestinians and to condemn what they perceive as injustices by the Israeli Defense Forces.

On Thursday, April 25, CUNY students, faculty, professors, and alumni set up an encampment on the lawn of the City College of New York (CCNY). This encampment follows those set up at Columbia University and New York University just a few days prior. 

On April 29th, at 11:14 am, CCNY administration denied the protestors in encampments by removing access to basic needs. This included locking students out of the bathrooms on campus as well as shutting down the on campus food pantry, “Benny’s Food Pantry.”

The Cuny4Palestine Instagram responded to these actions by posting, “The CUNY administration supports the same genocidal entity that deliberately uses starvation as a weapon, and are using the same tactic against us.”

On the Harlem Heights campus at CCNY, a Palestinian flag was removed from the pole and tossed, as a law enforcement officer raised the American flag. 

CUNY released a statement on May 1st, 2024 detailing the use of police force, explaining how students are allowed to peacefully protest, but condemning what they have deemed “repeated acts of violence and vandalism.” 

The administration further explained that the goal of their actions is to continue to keep CUNY free from violence and harassment.

Due to these recent encampments, there were around 282 total arrests by the NYPD, 173 at City College, and 109 at Columbia University.

During the encampment, Columbia Protesters declared Hamilton Hall as “Hind’s Hall.” Protestors did this as an act of solidarity with Hind Rajab, a six year old girl who was reportedly killed in Gaza over two months ago by the IDF. 

In calling for five demands from the administration, students took inspiration from the 1969 protests at City College.

The first demand calls for CUNY to divest from companies funding Israel.

The second demand calls for an academic boycott of Israeli universities and academic programs. This includes demanding the the ban of partnerships and trips to Israel, such as the Birthright and Fulbright programs.

Protest organizers urge solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement in the third demand.

The fourth demand calls for the removal of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the NYPD from college campuses.

The fifth demand calls for CUNY to be tuition free again. 

In establishing these five demands, students took inspiration from the student protests at CCNY in 1969, when Black and Puerto Rican students occupied the campus’s south lawn for two weeks. Among the list of demands were separate schools of Black and Puerto Rican students and student inclusion in the organization of the SEEK program.

A student organizer at the CCNY encampment from Hunter College decided to remain anonymous and explained the protestors’ need to “risk it all for the sake of divesting and straying away from Israel,” noting that the “trauma and devastation [of the Palestinian people] is beyond what we can personally understand. It is the bare minimum to come here. Our tuition is funding the genocide of my people.”

This student also believes that the Palestinian cause is a part of their daily life, especially at school. “It’s a right to have a good education. A person shouldn’t have to choose between living their life and having to come to school directly. This correlates to the cause because of the horrible education conditions in Palestine,” the student said.

She also noted they feel a sense of community at the encampment, as “people from different walks of life and different parts of CUNY have united for one cause: Palestinian liberation.”

Many protestors are occupying the encampment because they believe it is a human rights issue and want to shine light on the Gaza blockade which has restricted the movement of people and goods.

CUNY students and families have joined the student activists on the lawn of City College, sharing sunscreen and masks. They also wear keffiyehs, traditional Palestinian headdresses, to show support. Scattered in their tents across the lawn, they have set up areas for poster and button making. 

Members of the encampment leave to bring back cases of water and boxes of granola bars, Oreo cookies, and other food items to share. 

At their teach-in on April 29th, members of CUNY on Strike, including adjunct faculty from across CUNY campuses, explained the importance of the assembly of the rank and file, noting that “The rank and file of the union are the union.” 

Professor Danny Shaw, an adjunct professor in the Latinx Department at John Jay College, recently received a letter of non-reappointment of President Mason. He expressed that he has been doxxed and received death threats for making pro-palestinian remarks.  

“If our mental health hasn’t been affected since October 7, then we’re either brainwashed or blind or deaf,” Shaw noted. 

Shaw, who has been involved in Palestinian liberation movements since 1994, also noted that protestors have a “moral and historical responsibility to feel hope” and that they “can’t stop until Palestinians have the right to return to their homeland.”

A John Jay student activist who wishes to remain anonymous also shared their reasons for protesting at CCNY. “The censorship and zionist affiliations on campus have been truly disheartening. How dare John Jay claim to ‘educate fierce advocates for justice’ yet silence advocacy for the end of apartheid and settler-colonialism?”

This student believes others should look back at historical timelines. “We cannot be ‘fierce advocates for justice’ if we disregard the 75-years of occupation, 75 years of forced displacement, 75 years of inhumanity the occupation has subjected Palestine to.” They believe this encampment style is a feasible means to achieve this justice.

Encampment and The City College of New York. (Laila Mansour)

This student also embraced Shaw’s hopefulness in the movement, stating, “It is because of this that I know Palestinian liberation is non-negotiable. Palestine will be free, so that the children of the land once again rejoice beneath the shade of its olive trees.” 

On April 30, members of the CCNY encampment even expanded into one of the buildings on campus. However, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grows, so do protests and police presence at these sites. 

The encampment has been barricaded, and student activists have been pepper-sprayed and arrested.

Despite the police presence, members of the CUNY encampment and encampments across the city remain steadfast in their calls for divestment and liberation. 

Rabiya Nazir, a senior at John Jay states “The younger generation has now decided to speak up, it is emotional to see that world leaders have given up. People finally understood their rights in the constitution, the right to speech and assembly.”

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About the Contributors
Umaima Ali
Umaima Ali, Managing Editor
Umaima Ali is currently a sophomore pursuing a bachelor’s in Criminology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice with two minors in Cybercrime and Middle East studies. Umaima has won awards in recognition of her writing, including the 2022 Excellence in Journalism award from the Herald Newspaper in her town. She is also a self-published author selling on Amazon, showcasing her poetry. She has worked as a past Staff Writer to Web Editor and is now a Managing Editor. Although writing has been her passion, it intertwines with many other interests. She has involved herself with the ePortfolio program by being a Junior eTern at John Jay, allowing her to improve her digital literacy. With both minors, she can incorporate language and history with technology. Her aspiration for the Sentinel is to continue to keep writing to the John Jay Community.  Ali is also in the Interdisciplinary Program at John Jay College, which has explored her writing with a variety of genres. She plans to embark on her academic journey by taking writing-intensive courses as a student. She has done research papers newsletters, etc. She is fond of investigative journalism and diverse writings. She aims to expand her knowledge and land a position in a law enforcement agency. Her life-long dream is to pursue a career in criminal investigations. She will take every opportunity to build that. Her favorite quote is “There is little that can withstand a man who can conquer himself” Louis XIV. It resonates with many moments of weakness Umaima has had in the past and overcame them by learning from her faults. It certainly gave her the strength to fight her battles. Her favorite article is “John Jay’s Shift In Campus Dining.” She enjoys writing stories local and warm to the John Jay Community for what impacts them.

Laila Mansour
Laila Mansour, Treasurer
Laila Mansour is a Freshman at John Jay College, majoring in Forensic Science (BS) and minoring in English. Laila has previously served as a Writer in the Fall 2023 semester and now serves as the Treasurer. She is a part of the Macaulay Honors Program at John Jay and writes for the Macaulay Messenger as well. At John Jay, she also works as a Visit Guide through CUNY Explorers and is a part of the Forensic Science Society, CUNY Inclusive Economy Initiative, and the Arab Student Union. She plans to apply to PRISM, John Jay’s STEM research program, as she continues on her path to becoming a forensic DNA analyst. Her love for writing has prompted her supplement her STEM studies with English, and she intends to turn her English minor into a double major. She has published an article on the new Girls Who Code chapter opening up at John Jay and looks forward to continuing to bring awareness to STEM opportunities and student achievements as well as bringing the school’s mission of advocating for justice to life through the paper. Laila’s favorite quote is “It takes courage to see the world in all its tainted glory and still to love it,” by Oscar Wilde.

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