Here Are the Gaza Encampment College Protests We Know About So Far

Large-scale protests have erupted, with students demanding universities divest from companies linked to Israel’s war.

Pro-Palestine protesters remained in an encampment at Columbia University's lawn on Monday.Stefan Jeremiah/AP

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This post was last updated on April 24, 2024.

A growing number of college students nationwide are staging encampments to protest their universities’ investments in Israeli entities in light of Israel’s war on Gaza, which has reportedly killed more than 34,000 Palestinians.

The protests have sparked mass arrests and suspensions, including at Columbia University, where more than 100 students—including some from Barnard, the all-women’s college located across the street from Columbia’s campus, which has a partnership with the university—were arrested last week after occupying the upper Manhattan campus.

Central to protesters’ demands are for the universities to divest from companies that fund corporations closely connected to Israel’s military operations and for administrators to allow pro-Palestinian protesters to demonstrate without threats of disciplinary action.

Many of the protests have sprung up the past few days after the groups National Students for Justice in Palestine and Palestinian Youth Movement put out a call this weekend “to take back the university and force the administration to divest, for the people of Gaza.”

The encampments appear to be largely peaceful, with demonstrators seen attending teach-ins and chanting in solidarity. But some participants have nonetheless faced serious encounters with law enforcement, including the arrest of more than 40 students at Yale this morning, a university spokesperson confirmed to Mother Jones.

Here’s a running list of where we have seen students setting up encampments across the country in addition to Columbia and their demands.


New York University

A few miles south of Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, students at New York University began camping outside the university’s Stern School of Business at 6 a.m. on Monday, according to the NYU Palestine Solidarity Coalition. The group is demanding NYU “divest from all corporations aiding in the genocide and fear tactics generating manufactured consent in academic spheres,” shut down its Tel Aviv campus, and remove the New York Police Department from the New York City campus. 

On Monday night, the NYPD arrested 120 participants at the NYU encampment after a letter from university officials requested police “clear the area and…take action to remove the protesters.” A police spokesperson told Mother Jones on Tuesday that 116 of those arrested were released with summonses for trespassing; another four face charges of resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration and were also released.

Video of the plaza posted to social media on Tuesday morning showed the plaza blocked off with barriers. 

NYU Spokesperson John Beckman said in a statement Monday night that while officials initially let the encampment stand, aiming to “avoid any escalation or violence,” in the early afternoon they “witnessed disorderly, disruptive, and antagonizing behavior that has interfered with the safety and security of our community,” which they attributed to protesters who they believe were not affiliated with NYU. Beckman said that after protesters refused to leave and officials learned of “intimidating chants and several antisemitic incidents,” administrators contacted the NYPD. But on Tuesday, professors and students who were at the Monday protest told Mother Jones NYU’s characterization of the protest was not accurate, alleging that it was mostly peaceful and that officials lied to justify bringing in police.

Video

The New School

Less than a mile from NYU’s campus, students at the New School set up an encampment on Sunday, when the school was hosting an event for newly admitted students, according to an Instagram post from the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The group is demanding divestment from corporations involved in Israel’s war on Gaza, protection from retaliation for pro-Palestinian protesters, and “a full academic boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions.” In a statement Sunday, the New School called the encampment “unauthorized.” The university’s president announced an official would meet with students on Monday to discuss “divesting from certain holdings within the university’s endowment” and that the Board of Trustees would meet with students “in the near future to consider the students’ request for financial transparency of the university’s investments.” A New School spokesperson didn’t respond to additional questions. On Tuesday, student organizers said they were no longer negotiating with administrators. 

Emerson College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tufts University

In Boston, students at Emerson College, MIT, and Tufts set up encampments on Sunday night, the Boston Globe reported. The groups are demanding the schools disclose and divest from investments in Israel, stop punishing student organizers, and support a ceasefire in Palestine. “We were definitely inspired by what’s going on at Columbia,” Owen Buxton, an Emerson College student, told the Globe. “They put out the call for universities across the country, and we answered.” An Emerson spokesperson told Mother Jones that “a small number of protesters actually stayed in the alley [overnight], much fewer than the number when the protest was initiated.” A spokesperson for Tufts said that, as of early Monday afternoon, there were about a half-dozen tents set up and a similar number of protesters, and that classes were proceeding as usual. “Regarding the students’ demands, our position on this has been clear and consistent for several years: We do not support the BDS movement,” added Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of media relations. Representatives for MIT and the Boston Police Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Yale University

At Yale, police arrested more than 40 student protesters early Monday morning, according to the student groups behind the encampment set up since Friday. By Sunday night, more than 250 protesters were occupying 40 tents in front of the main library, according to the Yale Daily News, the student-run newspaper. Student organizers compared today’s arrests to the 1986 arrests of more than 70 Yale students who protested South African apartheid. In an email to students Sunday, Yale University President Peter Salovey said that while most protesters were peaceful, university police were also investigating reports of threats and harassment. More than 2,300 Yale alumni have also signed a letter demanding divestment as of Wednesday morning. A Yale spokesperson told Mother Jones on Monday that university officials spent “spent several hours in discussion with student protestors yesterday,” adding that both the university and police had warned protesters “numerous times” that they faced the possibility of arrest.

The University of Michigan

About 40 students set up an encampment at the University of Michigan on Monday morning, demanding divestment from Israeli entities, according to the student-run newspaper The Michigan Daily. In a press release, the student protesters said the university invests more than $6 million in Israeli companies and military contractors. 

A university spokesperson told Mother Jones Monday night that officials “are carefully monitoring the situation and remain prepared to appropriately address any harassment or threats against any member of our community.” The spokesperson also pointed to the school’s investment policy, which dates back to 2005 and stipulates that the school’s endowment must be shielded “from political pressures.” Instead, “our investment decisions [are based] solely on financial factors such as risk and return,” the policy states. At a Board of Regents meeting last month, officials affirmed that position, adding that they “are not moving to make any divestment of any kind.” The board also said that “the endowment has no direct investment in any Israeli company,” and that “less than 1/10 of one percent of the endowment is invested indirectly in such companies.”

Vanderbilt University

Students at Vanderbilt University have been occupying parts of the campus lawn since March 26, according to the Vanderbilt Divest Coalition. The group is demanding increased transparency about the university’s investments, for school officials to drop charges and disciplinary actions against students who have protested in support of Palestine, and the reinstatement of a canceled referendum concerning recommendations made by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, according to the student-run newspaper, The Vanderbilt Hustler. A university spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to questions.

California State Polytechnic University

Protesters barricaded themselves inside an academic building on the campus of Cal Poly Humboldt on Monday, prompting a response from local police and university police. “Humboldt for Palestine” claimed several students were arrested.

University of California, Berkeley 

On Monday, students launched a “Free Palestine Camp,” demanding a ceasefire, divestment of the university’s holdings from corporations that support Israel’s war on Gaza, the establishment of a Palestinian Studies Program at the university, and the end of academic collaborations with Israeli universities, including the school’s summer internship program in Israel. The student newspaper, The Daily Californianreports that the encampment is the first at a UC campus and that a dozen tents were set up Monday, with plans for more. “Just like they did at Columbia, we will continue to be here,” Malak Afaneh, co-president of Law Students for Justice in Palestine, told the student paper. “You can arrest us, you can expel us, you can suspend us, but we will continue to be here.”

A Berkeley spokesperson told Mother Jones on Tuesday morning the university is “prioritizing students’ academic interests” and “will take the steps necessary to ensure the protest does not disrupt the university’s operations.” It added that “there are no plans to change the university’s investment policies and practices.”

University of Minnesota 

Early Tuesday morning, students set up an encampment. The group is demanding the university: divest from Israeli weapons companies and ban them from recruiting and hosting workshops on campus; boycott Israeli institutions that have supported the war; disclose the university’s investments; release a statement in support of the university’s Palestinian students; and provide “amnesty for all students, staff, and faculty disciplined or fired in the movement for Palestinian liberation.”

At 6:30 a.m., police arrested nine students, according to the organizers. Protesters also posted a video showing police removing signs and chairs from the site. A university spokesperson told Mother Jones confirmed the nine participants were arrested without incident; student organizers later said they were released. 

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Students set up an encampment on Monday, according to a video posted on social media by organizers. The student newspaper, Niner Timesreports that protesters removed their tents Monday night at the direction of school security officials, but that they plan to continue camping out until the Board of Trustees meeting on April 25. A photo published by the paper shows a poster listing protesters demands: that the university disclose the extent of its investments in Israel and divest from them; and that the university acknowledge “the displacement and genocide of the Palestinian people.” Earlier this month, the student paper reported that the administration denounced a resolution passed by the Student Government Association and supported by more than 700 people demanding the university divest funds from Israel. The administration pointed to a law passed last year requiring that University of North Carolina’s constituent schools “remain neutral, as an institution, on the political controversies of the day.” A spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday morning.

Brown University 

Students set up an encampment early Wednesday morning, organizers said in an Instagram post. They’re demanding the university divest its financial holdings and “from all companies profiting from the genocide in Gaza and the broader Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory,” as well as dropped charges for 41 students who were arrested during a December sit-in. A university spokesperson said the encampment violates university police and participants “have been informed they will face conduct proceedings,” but added that they have not seen any incidents of “violence, harassment and intimidation.” 

University of Pittsburgh

On Tuesday, students protesters started their encampment, and said they plan to stay put until Friday. Protesters held a Passover Seder at the encampment Tuesday night, according to the student newspaper, The Pitt News, which reported that the protesters are also calling for divestment. Police have been at the scene and moved the encampment from one location to another on campus, but did not make any arrests, the paper reported. A university spokesperson could not immediately be reached Wednesday morning. 

University of Rochester 

Students at the upstate New York school set up tents on their quad on Tuesday, according to organizers. They are demanding the university issue a statement in support of a permanent ceasefire and an “end all academic ties to Israel.” On Wednesday, organizers said there were more than 60 students participating and that university officials had threatened to clamp down on protests. A university spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions Wednesday.

University of Southern California 

Early Wednesday morning, students set up their encampment in the middle of the Los Angeles campus. Organizers say they want the university to enact a “complete academic boycott of Israel”; call for a ceasefire; provide amnesty to students, faculty and staff who have been disciplined for pro-Palestinian activism; end policing on campus; and “cease expansion” of the campus and “provide reparations, and support housing for low-income” residents around USC’s campus. Protesters said university officials ordered campus police to remove signs hanging from trees on Wednesday morning. A university representative did not immediately respond to questions.The school has already been embroiled in controversy after officials canceled a commencement speech earlier this month, which critics—including the speaker—attributed to Islamophobia. University officials said the decision was about safety and said “this decision has nothing to do with freedom of speech.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. If you know of an encampment or college protest we missed—email me and let me know: jmcshane@motherjones.com.

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