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Occupation at Smith College demanding Israeli divestment enters second week

The Palestinian flag is flying from the occupied building, where the American flag typically flies

A pro-divestment sit-in at Smith College occupying the main administration building is entering its second week.

The students have met with the college president — who did not cave to their demands but has not shut down the aggressive protest — and say they will continue the occupation until their demands are addressed.

“The protesters say they will not leave College Hall until the institution commits to divestment, according to statements on the social media pages of the college’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, which is spearheading the demonstration,” according to reporting by Inside Higher Ed.

Approximately 50 students are participating in the protest, IHE reported. They are equipped with air mattresses, pillows, and large amounts of food. The Palestinian flag is flying from the occupied building, where the American flag typically flies.

Despite the fact that students “are allegedly in violation of several elements of the Student Code of Conduct including unauthorized entry or use of a building, abuse of property, and disruption of college activities,” no arrests or student conduct charges have been made, Carolyn McDaniel, Smith’s director of media relations, told Inside Higher Ed in an email.

Because the building is effectively closed, people with business within are being significantly inconvenienced. McDaniel mentioned a family that had driven to Smith to discuss their child’s FAFSA, only to find the office shuttered. In that instance the financial aid personnel met with them elsewhere.

Ruby Masters, a sophomore who is an organizer with SJP, told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that “the action followed the college trustees’ denial of the justice group’s request that they pull Smith’s investments from weapons contractors such as General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.”

Masters relayed that the Board of Trustees, in an emailed response, said that “the request did not meet the threshold for taking action and also found that the endowment’s investment in military contractors and weapons manufacturers is negligible and entirely indirect,” the Gazette reported.

Nevertheless, the pro-Palestinian protesters persist in their occupation. It began on March 27, a day after the board rejected the plea for disinvestment. Demands for disinvestment have become a mainstay of pro-Palestinian protesters at colleges across the country.

“President Sarah Willie-LeBreton met with pro-Palestinian protesters in College Hall on March 30, but they failed to reach a resolution that would end the demonstration, according to a Smith SJP Instagram post,” IHE reported.

Among other demands the protesters want the college to not punish students participating in the sit-in. This, too, has become a standard demand. The president said that she did not have the power to help the students avoid punishment for the sit-in. There are no reports of Smith College closing the sit-in down or announcing punishments.

More than 1,400 students have signed a petition supporting the protesters’ demands, according to IHE. But there are also students on campus who disagree with the actions and demands of SJP, with one anonymous email purportedly from a Smith student saying the institution has “become a terrifying place with absolutely no consequence for breaking the law.”

“The college refuses to do anything to hold them accountable, and now the front doorstep of what’s supposed to be a brilliant college for smart women looks like a tent city of anti-Semitic drum circlers,” the student reportedly wrote.

Earlier in March there were several antisemitic incidents on Smith’s campus, including swastikas painted in crosswalks, and mezuzahs torn off doors near campus, as The College Fix reported.

MORE: Smith College responds to antisemitic graffiti by condemning Islamophobia

IMAGE: SPJ Instagram screenshot

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