Drop ALL charges against pro-Palestinian students!! Cops OFF the campuses!!

Columbia University, May 1, 2024

Should anyone have illusions that the United States is a bastion of democracy, those illusions should be put to rest, once and for all, this May 1. A day earlier it was obvious that no one can express their views freely, especially if those views go against key U.S. international policy. The brutal repression unleashed by police against pro-Palestinian students, from New York City to North Carolina to Texas and Los Angeles, proved that.  

Workers World condemns in the strongest terms possible this shameful display of sheer police terror, carried out in coordination across the U.S. in the service of U.S. worldwide hegemony.  

U.S. imperialism, the dominant exploiting power in the world, has also been the number one police state. Often the main domestic arms of the state – local and state police – have carried out their brutality in isolated situations. Police abuses, if reported at all, are distorted by the corporate media, especially if perpetrated against Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples. 

This only changes if a rebellion breaks out. Remember May 2020, after the public police lynching of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which broke the censorship of police killings.

Now fast forward to April 2024. Another kind of eruption has taken the U.S. rulers by surprise and rattled society. It’s the explosion of a worldwide solidarity movement with the Palestinian people – especially those living in occupied Gaza, who have been suffering a genocide of epic proportions at the hands of  the U.S.-backed apartheid Israeli state since October 7.  

Inside the U.S., this solidarity movement has been raised to a new level by college students on over 100 campuses, whose determination has erected Gaza Solidarity Encampments. These actions demand that university endowments divest from Israel and Israel-linked companies and that Israel end the genocide. These are the two common political slogans of all the encampments.

It is notable that the U.S. students gained heartfelt appreciation from the Palestinian people and the rest of the masses throughout West Asia – the region often called the Middle East.

Columbia University, May 1, 2024

Police unleashed

In New York City, the police, following the orders of university officials and the city government, gathered overwhelming force and attacked students at Columbia University – ground zero, the first of the encampments – and City College of New York (CCNY). 

Cops in full riot gear pushed unarmed students to the ground and down stairs, hit them with batons, threw flash-bang grenades, drew guns, maced and pepper-sprayed them before putting them under arrest, and zip-tied students’ hands behind their backs. Cops arrested some 300 students. Columbia’s administration has publicly requested the New York Police Department to occupy the Columbia campus until May 17!  

Similar brutal assaults took place at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Texas at Austin, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and other campuses around the country.

At UCLA, an estimated 200 people identifying as Zionists – and looking like fascist elements – used fireworks, mace and sticks against the encampment while the students were sleeping. The police, otherwise omnipresent, were conveniently nowhere to be found during these attacks, allowing these fascists to do the cops’ dirty work.  

The UCLA attack recalled how police in the U.S. have collaborated with their extra-legal terrorist accomplices, the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi-type forces (as they did in the summer of 2020). In a similar way, the Israeli Occupation Forces give military backing to let armed settlers attack Palestinian villages in the West Bank.

At UCLA, the Zionists yelled “second Nakba!” at students as they attacked. This is a blatant reference to the first Nakba in 1948: the mass displacement of Palestinians caused by real massacres in the Indigenous people’s villages. The displacement led to the establishment of Israel on land seized from the displaced and murdered Palestinians.   

The struggle will not rest

Fordham University students in New York City set up an indoor encampment on May 1. Police immediately threatened them with arrest and covered the windows where students had placed signs. After these students received suspension letters from the university, they wrote “Free Palestine” on the letters while chanting “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest!”

Outraged by the police violence, faculty members – a  number of whom have also been brutalized and arrested – have called for a City University of New York (CUNY) walkout on May 2 in solidarity with the students. This means that many classes will be canceled throughout the CUNY system.

And solidarity came from beyond academia. 

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain issued the following May Day statement: “The UAW will never support the mass arrest or intimidation of those exercising their right to protest, strike or speak out against injustice. 

“Our union has been calling for a ceasefire for six months. This war is wrong and this response against students and academic workers, many of them UAW members, is wrong. We call on the powers that be to release the students and employees who have been arrested and if you can’t take the outcry, stop supporting this war.”

Workers World joins students, workers and unions in demanding: “Release the students and workers whose unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people and their resistance will not rest, no matter the repression and no matter how long it takes as long as the genocide persists.”

This heroic student Intifada, which has touched every corner of the globe, has inspired the world not to rest until Palestine is free from all vestiges of settler colonialism, white supremacy, and occupation by its imperialist backers, especially the U.S. and its imperialist allies. 

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!  In solidarity, we are ALL Palestinians!  Down with imperialism everywhere!

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