Bulletin: After giving just a few minutes notice early on May 10, Philadelphia police disbanded the Palestine Solidarity Encampment, established on the University of Pennsylvania campus April 25. At least 33 people were arrested, then released a short time later.

Philadelphia — Two days before police disbanded the UPenn Solidarity with Palestine Encampment, an important rally of workers, union organizers and other activists took place. From a spirited rally at Clark Park on May 8, over 300 people marched through West Philadelphia and onto the UPenn campus to demonstrate solidarity with students and faculty at the Encampment for Gaza. The marchers’ lead banner read: “Which side are you on? Workers united for Palestine.”

Launched on April 25, the encampment has demanded that UPenn divest its multibillion-dollar endowment from companies doing business with or providing weapons to Israel; that the Ivy League university disclose these holdings; and that no action be taken against the students involved.

The coalition of workers, whether unionized, in the process of organizing, or others dealing with oppression from their corporate bosses, including UPenn, was fully in solidarity with the movement to stop the U.S./Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Workers solidarity with UPenn encampment march in Philadelphia, May 8, 2024. (WW Photo: Joe Piette)

When the demonstration reached the encampment, some participants helped by spreading out the cops’ metal barriers so more tents could be set up. Others engaged in militant chanting until the rally formally started.

Student union organizers were among the first to speak. Sam Layding and Clancy Murray are with Graduate Employees Together University of Pennsylvania (GET-UP), which won a successful campus unionizing drive for graduate student employees by a 1807-97 vote May 2. Both addressed UPenn’s academic complicity in the Zionist genocide through efforts to silence speech, and their military research.

Workers are with the encampment

Linda Gomaa, with Amazonians United, described Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s ties with the U.S. imperialist system, the military-industrial complex, and the CIA. Gomaa said: “Jeff Bezos gets rich off all our pain. Amazon workers are barely able to make it through the day without constantly needing to take pain killers and are barely able to pay their rent. One of our co-workers died inside a warehouse on the floor. Management didn’t want to stop production for the day, so they put boxes around his dead body.

Gomma continued: “We are in solidarity with the UPenn encampment and those around the world in solidarity with Palestine. Corporate media is doing everything they possibly can to convince you that the public is against you. It’s corporate media that is against you, the elites are against you, our boss is against you. But working people — and we are constantly having conversations with our co-workers about Palestine and the world, about politics — we are with you.

“The people who make this country and the world run are with you. Workers are the driving economic force in this country, we have the power to stop the funding of this genocide in Palestine when we organize in the belly of the beast.”

Workers solidarity with UPenn encampment march in Philadelphia, May 8, 2024. (WW Photo: Joe Piette)

Glaive, from Philadelphia Joint Board of Workers United Local 80, representing food service workers at cafes and bakeries, said: “As workers, we understand that we share a common enemy with all oppressed people. The apartheid regime of Israel and its genocidal campaign against the people of Palestine is linked with global capitalism’s profit motives — whether it’s their trade canal designed to be built through Gaza, the toxic oil off Gaza’s coast or the transfer of control of Rafah border crossings to a private U.S. security firm.

“The same hands whose labor builds this economy will build a better future and will tear down the imperialist war machine here in the belly of the beast in the U.S.”

How dare they say ‘we are dangerous’

Rutgers law professor and Palestinian activist Noura Erakat said; “We are on day 215 of watching children have homes fall on their heads and being told that our eyes betray us because they are ‘dangerous.’ These are unnatural deaths, and they are deliberate. Gaza is predominantly children. The Israeli Occupation Force is not inadvertently killing babies – it is deliberately targeting children, deliberately attempting to prevent a Palestinian future while erasing a Palestinian past.”

“They tell us we are ‘dangerous.’ The only danger is these cops, this arm of state violence. None of this would be possible today without the mass Black mobilization and uprising that recognized the state as the perpetrator of mass violence. It is no coincidence that St. Louis, Missouri, where a 69-year-old professor was brutalized by the cops at an encampment, is just 10 miles from Ferguson.

Workers rally for UPenn encampment at “Button” on campus, May 8, 2024. (WW Photo: Joe Piette)

Erakat continued: “In 2014, during a 59-day Israel bombardment of Gaza, a cop in Ferguson shot [Black youth] Michael Brown who had his hands up. Palestinians, in solidarity with the Black community in Ferguson, told them how to survive the tear gas. This Gaza/Ferguson moment, Black /Palestinian solidarity moment became a renewal of transnational international alliances. The Ferguson police chief was trained by officers in Israel.

“State violence connects Palestine to Philadelphia to Ferguson to Chicago, to New York to San Francisco to Los Angeles. Don’t you dare try to tell us we are dangerous. The only thing that is dangerous is our power. It’s why the Zionists are calling on the alt right as their main allies. The alt right is weaponizing antisemitism to advance their disastrous dangerous lethal agenda. These encampments are for Palestine, for Gaza. There is no future without Palestine. Free, Free Palestine.”

Unity Caucus member Matteo Hintz, a chapter chair of the union at the Penn Museum, and Collin Kawan-Hemler, also a Unity Caucus member, described how UPenn busts unions, gentrifies, and does not respect ancestral remains. Stressing the need to stand up to this bullying through solidarity and collective action, Hintz raised that union members banded together to get AFSCME DC 47 to pass a resolution for a ceasefire and to protect their members from repression.”

Hintz said, “The fearless participants in this encampment are putting their safety on the line to hold UPenn accountable.” Kawan-Hemler, a library worker, said, “Every day in my job I am getting radicalized to a degree I never thought possible.”

Nathaniel Philip, a cook at the Philadelphia airport, is an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 274 which represents hospitality, casino, and food service workers. They described how their grandfather survived a manufactured famine in Kerala, India, during British colonialism, when the British empire exported food for profit and to maintain their power. “The manufactured famine in Gaza ties back in part to collaboration with the British empire 100 years ago.

Workers solidarity with UPenn encampment march in Philadelphia, May 8, 2024. (WW Photo: Joe Piette)

Philip said: “I’m a cook at the airport and when they are short of workers, the bosses will say ‘we need a body for the grill, for the fries.’ But I’m not just a body. I’m a person. Under settler colonialism people were treated like animals and locked up because they couldn’t pay their bills. But we are human.

“In Philadelphia people are living in war zones in the hood, besieged by gentrification, by poverty, by cops – like homeless encampments [in Kensington] being cleared by the cops right now. The murder of a child by a bomb in Rafah or by a bullet in Philly is the murder of all of our children. History teaches us that the only thing that ever changes the dynamics between ruled and rulers, exploiters and the exploited, oppressors and oppressed is when the masses of people come together, and we fight.

Philip stressed: “The Aramark food service workers at the stadiums are fighting against exploitation by capital. We will not stop. We are relentless. When we fight, we win.”

Speakers included OB/GYN resident Nayla with Healthcare Workers for Palestine, who discussed the healthcare crisis in Gaza and Raz Segal, professor of genocide studies at Stockton University, who condemned the weaponization of antisemitism against the encampments. Ramsey, a UPenn grad student, addressed the rally for the Philadelphia Palestine Coalition.

M. Asli Dukan, an adjunct at Community College of Philadelphia and an organizer with CCP’s faculty union AFT 2026, and several members of her union were on hand in solidarity with student encampments. They reported that the staff union recently sent a letter to the CCP Board of Trustees requesting that they return a financial donation from Day & Zimmermann, a Philadelphia-based arms manufacturer.

Betsey Piette

Betsey.Piette@workers.org

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