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‘Gaza Solidarity Encampment’ launches at Princeton, students arrested

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Student arrested on McCosh Courtyard.
Calvin Grover / The Daily Princetonian

About 100 undergraduate and graduate students began a sit-in on McCosh Courtyard early Thursday morning, joining a wave of pro-Palestinian sit-ins across the country. After student organizers first began to erect tents, Princeton Public Safety (PSAFE) issued its first warning to protesters. At least two student arrests have been made. After the initial arrests, students folded them away. 

Students face arrest and being barred from campus if they refuse to stop after a warning, according to a campus-wide message on Wednesday morning from Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun. 

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“They said it was not possible here, and it is possible,” Aditi Rao GS told protesters in a speech.

McCosh Courtyard lies between the south side of the University chapel and McCosh Hall. The sit-in is not in the immediate sightline of Princeton’s public streets. After the initial tents were taken down, protesters sat down in the courtyard on tarps and blankets. Some began singing and chanting. By noon, approximately 250 protesters were gathered on McCosh Courtyard.

“We’re gonna be here for a while, everybody,” Patrick Jaojoco GS told protestors. Protesters have set up an art project, a library, and a yoga area in the courtyard.

“We are part of a historic moment in student movements drawing on anti-war student movements in American history,” said Emanuelle Sippy ’25, the president of the Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP). “ It’s very easy to valorize this when it’s about South African apartheid or the Vietnam War or Kent State. We need to show up in this present moment.” Sippy noted she was not speaking for AJP.

“We’re gonna be here until the University divests,” Rao said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.

“They [PSAFE] used such excessive force this morning and it’s really hard to see how the University recovers its image of arresting two students within five minutes of our encampment. Just really unprecedented,” she added.

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Six officers encircled one of the arrestees at the time of the arrest, as could be seen in a video taken by the ‘Prince.’ One officer removed the individual’s backpack, while two officers handcuffed them. After handcuffs were placed, the student was pulled away from the courtyard.

The two students, Achinthya Sivalingam GS and Hassan Sayed GS, were arrested within six minutes of the first tents being set up.

“The two graduate students have been immediately barred from campus, pending a disciplinary process,” University spokesperson Jennifer Morrill wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “No force was used by Public Safety officers when conducting the arrests, which occurred without resistance,” Morrill added.

Student organizers have circulated a document on Instagram calling on alumni and other members of the university to call and email the University to halt disciplinary measures, and said that Sivalingam and Sayed had been evicted from their campus housing and had been given five minutes to collect their belongings.

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“The students have shown an inspiring amount of courage, determination and discipline,” Max Weiss, an associate professor of history and member of the Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP), told the ‘Prince.’ “So long as Princeton University and its administration and its president refuse to take action on this question, history will remember that the blood of Palestinians is on their hands.”

“I applaud the Princeton administration for being clear on what the rules are and for enforcing them properly,” said Rabbi Eitan Webb, the co-director of Princeton’s Chabad House. Webb was part of a group of a half dozen counterprotesters, some holding American and Israeli flags, standing off to the side. The group seemed to have dispersed by around 8:30 a.m.

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A small group of counterprotesters gathered off to the side.
Calvin Grover / The Daily Princetonian

A sheet handed out at the sit-in includes demands for the University to “call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and condemn Israel’s genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people.” 

The sheet also reiterated existing demands for the University to divest from “companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s ongoing military campaign, occupation, and apartheid policies,” to refrain from association from Israeli academic institutions and businesses, and to cultivate relationships with Palestinian institutions. It also called for broader transparency on the University’s investments and an end to weapons research funded by the Department of Defense.

The demand sheet also specifically singled out TigerTrek Israel and Birthright Israel trips sponsored by the Center for Jewish Life (CJL), as well as disassociation from the Tikvah Fund, a politically Zionist nonprofit that has funded events on campus in the past.

Encampments also sprung up at Harvard and Brown on Wednesday morning, making Princeton the fifth Ivy League school with pitched tents. Multiple students at Brown faced disciplinary action Wednesday afternoon, but no students at either campus have been arrested so far.

Students at Cornell and George Washington University also set up their own encampments on Thursday morning.

Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun wrote in an email sent to undergraduate students at 10:08 a.m. on Wednesday morning that “[a]ny individual involved in an encampment, occupation, or other unlawful disruptive conduct who refuses to stop after a warning will be arrested and immediately barred from campus.” The email was sent approximately two hours after an article in The National Review leaked documents regarding plans for an encampment at Princeton.

Calhoun’s email is the first message to the full undergraduate student body threatening potential disciplinary action in response to pro-Palestinian activism, and marks the most explicit proposed action of the University towards student conduct and protest since Oct. 7. 

In an opinion piece published by the ‘Prince’ on April 25, University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 pointed to “time, place, and manner rules” stating, “[the University] may, and indeed does, prohibit tactics, such as encampments or the occupation of buildings, that interfere with the scholarly and educational mission of the University or that increase safety risks to members of the University community.”

This story is breaking and will be updated as further information becomes available.

Miriam Waldvogel is an associate News editor and the investigations editor for the ‘Prince.’ She is from Stockton, Calif. and often covers campus activism and University accountability.

Annie Rupertus is a head News editor for the ‘Prince’ from Philadelphia who often covers activism and campus governance.

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated to further reflect the nature of the student arrests.

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