SUNY BDS movement stages march on Albany for Palestine

Albany, New York

Around 200 students, faculty, and activists from a variety of State University of New York schools gathered on April 15 in Albany under the banner of the SUNY Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. SUNY BDS has spent the last few months trying to develop a SUNY-wide movement for the total boycott and divestment of the illegal Zionist occupation by the SUNY system. 

Albany protest, April 15, 2024. WW Photo: Arjae Red

This marks the first demonstration called and organized on a statewide basis by the movement, whose member organizations have been actively holding demonstrations and teach-ins all over New York state for months, from New York City to Buffalo.

The event was split off into four main parts: a kick-off rally where organizers from different SUNY schools spoke and led chants, a march to the SUNY administration building in Albany, a rally at the SUNY administration building, and a march back to the demonstration’s starting point for networking and community. Along the way, protesters stopped by the New York State Comptroller’s office for additional demonstrating and chanting.

During the rally outside the SUNY administration building, activists on the organizing committee of SUNY BDS delivered a petition containing signatures from over 4,000 students calling for divestment. One of the key speakers was Cesar, a Black student activist who was assaulted by a member of his university’s administration, and was subsequently arrested for trying to protect himself. 

Cesar demanded justice for people of color harmed here in the imperial core by capitalist state violence — and simultaneously for the people of Palestine who are being murdered by the U.S./Israeli genocidal war machine. He and other speakers pointed out the strong connections between imperial violence around the globe and capitalist and white supremacist state violence at home.

The SUNY system has numerous ties to the occupation, including but not limited to companies on the BDS target list and to the weapons manufacturers supporting the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. As stated on the SUNY BDS website, this includes a homeland and cybersecurity research partnership between SUNY Albany and Ben Gurion University in Negev (Naqab), state retirement plans which have over $250 million invested in Israel bonds, and a partnership between Stony Brook University and IBM, which provides technology for the Israeli military.   

Investments hidden from students 

Many of these investments are purposefully hidden from the students. This is the case with the University of Buffalo, whose administration has refused to engage in basic financial transparency regarding its investments while simultaneously stating that they do not plan to divest from the occupation in response to student and faculty demands. 

Students researching SUNY on behalf of the BDS movement have uncovered press releases documenting New York’s ties to the Zionist state. One from 2019 is titled “Governor Cuomo Announces Sweeping Series of Economic Development Partnerships Between New York and Israel.”

It is understandable that many young people across the SUNY system are joining with their peers all over the country – and all over the world – to fight for an end to the genocide of the Palestinian people and the over 75-year occupation of Palestinian land by the forces of Israeli settler-colonialism. 

This protest is one of many in recent history that demonstrates the revolutionary potential of and solidarity amongst student organizers and, more broadly, working- class and oppressed youth. As the struggle to pressure educational institutions to divest from Israel and invest in the working class heats up on campuses across the U.S., revolutionary and progressive youth are not merely acting for their own sake, but are acting in a wider international context in solidarity with the Palestinian people and resistance. 

To quote the closing message of University of Albany Students for Justice in Palestine: “SUNY, we will be back!”

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