The student uprising that began at Columbia University in New York City on April 17 has evolved into a global phenomenon, reaching even Antarctica.

Hunter College, New York. May 6, 2024

 What sparked this movement, a real Intifada that takes the form of Gaza Solidarity Encampments, is the ongoing horrific genocide in Gaza by the U.S.-backed Israeli apartheid regime that began in October. This genocide, which has played out on all forms of social media, has claimed over 35,000 lives and over 78,000 injured Palestinians as of May 5, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. 

At one point, students established over 100 encampments on college campuses throughout the U.S. The protesters demand the college administrations divest from Israeli companies and Israeli-linked companies, especially those with ties to industries making weapons that have massacred Palestinians, including over 15,000 children. The protesters demand a permanent end to the genocide. 

While these encampments have used peaceful tactics, the organizers have sent a clear message that they would not be silent. They condemn their college management and the Joe Biden administration for their complicity with genocide. 

These students tell the world that they are exercising their right to free speech and the freedom of assembly, outlined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, ratified by Congress in December 1791. They proclaim that their encampments will remain intact until their demands are met, no matter how long it takes. 

Reacting to the genocidal Israeli assault on Rafah, students defy police to march from Hunter College, New York, to near the Met Gala. May 6, 2024. (Photo: Brenda Ryan)

Brutal police, local and state, armed to the teeth with batons, pepper spray, flash-bang grenades, zip ties and rubber bullets, have violated these basic bourgeois democratic rights at many of these encampments. Police have even drawn guns against unarmed young people. 

At the University of California Los Angeles, police were either absent or just stood by as armed pro-Israel forces attacked these encampments with fireworks, lead pipes and chemical sprays and carried out other acts of terror, causing multiple injuries. Pro-Palestinian protesters had their COVID masks and keffiyehs ripped off to make them more vulnerable to rightwing attacks. Muslim students have had their hijabs removed while being arrested, a violation of their religious rights. 

The police, with the support of these reactionary college administrators, have turned these peaceful encampments into virtual war zones. 

The real perpetrators of violence

College administrators, echoing the Biden administration, have pushed the utterly false narrative that the encampments are antisemitic and an affront to Jewish students. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many anti-Zionist Jewish students have participated in the encampments to say that the genocide in Gaza will not be carried out in their name. 

This false claim of antisemitism provides a cover for Washington to continue its support for a brutal regime, which, since its founding in 1948, has embodied naked ethnic cleansing, mass displacement and overt anti-Arab racism. This regime claims that its right to self defense justifies its destruction of Gaza and the deliberate starvation of Gazans. Let’s be clear: A state that uses an occupying force to subjugate an entire Indigenous population has no right to exist, much less the right to slaughter others. 

Consider the situation of the Indigenous nations in the Americas when Christopher Columbus first arrived in the hemisphere in 1492. The settlers from Europe systematically stole their land. Didn’t Indigenous peoples have the right to resist by any means necessary? 

Didn’t the African people enslaved in the Western Hemisphere since 1619 have the right to resist violent enslavement? And didn’t the people of South Africa, also victims of white settler apartheid, have the right to resist their violent oppressors?  

The pretext college administrations use to order police raids is that the encampments allegedly pose a danger to Jewish students. In reality, the police raids are the real violence, and a danger to all who oppose Zionism and its imperialist apologists, such as the U.S. rulers.

Why abolish the police?

Why are these student encampments, whose tactics are peaceful, being attacked with such ferocious brutality? These encampments call the very existence of Israel into question, and Israel has become the number one world social pariah. And as much as they expose Israeli crimes, the student encampments have an anti-U.S. focus within the belly of the beast — U.S. imperialism. 

In his famous “State and Revolution,” the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin defines the role of the state — that is, the armed bodies of men and women, which maintain the rule of one class over another. In U.S. capitalist society, the state protects the domination of the billionaire ruling class over the interests of the multinational working class, which also includes students. 

Today the students are challenging U.S. support for Israel. Since Israel is a key link in imperialist domination worldwide, the U.S rulers order their state apparatus to use violent force against them as soon as the masses raise their heads when their unjust rule is challenged.

There can be no justification for the police to invade campuses like storm troopers to disrupt and terrorize students demanding divestment, the end of genocide and the liberation of the Palestinian people. Just as any resistance by the Palestinian people is a right, so is the resistance by the students to defend themselves from a state that does not represent their interests.  

Right now there is a demand for cops off campuses. One day in the not too distant future, as class consciousness continues to grow, this demand will evolve to abolish the police and to abolish capitalism, the system that fuels so much repression and all forms of bigotry. The working class has every right to become the gravediggers of their oppressors.

Monica Moorehead

Monica.Moorehead@workers.org

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Monica Moorehead

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