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Cornell arrests 24 pro-Palestinian student protesters for refusing to leave building

Cornell University arrested 24 pro-Palestinian student protesters on Thursday for refusing to leave a campus administration building in what appears to be the first major crackdown on anti-Israel protests that violate school policy.

The students, with the Cornell Coalition for Mutual Liberation, were conducting a sit-in demonstration during a trustees meeting to demand that the Ivy League school divest from various Israeli companies, campus spokesman Joel Malina stated in a news release.

“Demonstrators remained in Day Hall despite repeated warnings from campus staff and Cornell Police that the building was closed,” the March 21 news release stated.

The students were arrested although the protest remained peaceful. They were taken into custody when they would not leave the building after it closed at 6 p.m. Some were handcuffed and patted down. They were all released by 8:30 p.m., the Ithaca Voice reported.

According to Malina, “Twenty-two students were referred to [the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards] for violating the Student Code of Conduct and two employees were referred to Human Resources for violating university policy. All 24 were charged with trespassing and referred to the Ithaca City Court.”

The Voice reported the “arrests come as federal lawmakers have renewed pressure on Cornell to crack down on campus protests alleged to be antisemitic. As students occupied the building, Cornell University President Martha Pollack received a letter from U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-M.O.) alleging previous protests organized by the Cornell Coalition for Mutual Liberation had promoted antisemitism on campus.”

Rep. Smith’s March 21 letter to Pollack called out the president for overseeing what he described amounted to lackluster enforcement and protections during ongoing anti-Israel protests on campus in recent months.

The Coalition of Mutual Liberation at Cornell “is not a registered student group but is instead made up of other registered student groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, the Black Students Union, the Arab Students Association, and the Young Democratic Socialists of America, among others,” the letter stated, adding:

The structure of CML appears designed to avoid university discipline. This effort should not flummox school administrators. The students who organize and lead these disruptions are known to you and me. One student leader is quoted as follows: “We don’t take our cue from some bullsh*t Student Assembly at Cornell . . . We take our cue from the armed resistance in Palestine. We are in solidarity with the armed resistance in Palestine from the river to the sea.” At the same event, the crowd chanted: “Yemen, Yemen, make us proud. Turn another ship around.” This appears to be praise for the Houthis, a group that has continuously fired weapons at ships in the Red Sea, including ships carrying U.S. service members; and a group that the Biden Administration redesignated as a terrorist organization. Given the persistent acts of intimidation and the lack of punishment significant enough to deter future violations, it is no wonder Jewish students on campus do not feel protected.

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Cornell spokesperson Malina, in his news release, stated that two trustees came out to talk with the demonstrators prior to their arrest, and that they “explained that while the demands would not be met, they were willing to share the demonstrators’ concerns with their fellow board members.”

A student who was arrested, Sara Almosawi, an undergraduate, told the Ithaca Voice that, “We are a non-violent group and always will be.”

The coalition’s chief demands include “divestment from any company complicit in genocide, apartheid, or systematic cruelty against children perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, in accordance with Cornell’s 2016 Standard to Guide Divestment Consideration.”

They also want Cornell to cease its joint campus operation with Israel’s Technion University. The group has also demanded that Cornell implement a “comprehensive ban on the research and development of any technologies used by the Israeli (military)” that come from work done at the universities’ shared campus in New York City.

On Friday, a day after the arrests, a second round of protests transpired. Approximately 150 demonstrators marched in front of Sage Hall, where the trustees held their meetings.

The coalition again urged Pollack to call on trustees to vote for divestment from Israeli arms suppliers and defense companies, according to the Cornell Daily Sun.

Protestors banged pots and pans and held signs with messages including “Cornell funds endless slaughter” and “Blood is on your hands,” the student newspaper reported, adding that at least 10 Cornell police and New York state troopers guarded the door to Sage Hall.

MORE: Cornell condemns comments by professor who called Hamas attacks ‘exhilarating’

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