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‘Gaza Solidarity Encampment’ at Princeton

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“Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Princeton
Calvin Grover / The Daily Princetonian

The live updates on day one of the sit-in have concluded. Follow live updates of day two here.

Princeton students began a sit-in McCosh Courtyard early Thursday morning, joining a wave of pro-Palestinian sit-ins across the country. The protest comes after documents leaked on Wednesday by organizer indicated that Princeton students were preparing for an encampment.

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On Wednesday morning, Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun wrote in an email sent to undergraduate students 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.”

A sheet circulated 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.” Other demands include that the University divest from “companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s ongoing military campaign, occupation, and apartheid policies,” refrain from association from Israeli academic institutions and businesses, and cultivate relationships with Palestinian Institutions.

PSAFE warns organizers of compliance with policy on sleeping outdoors — April 26, 2:07 a.m.

A PSAFE officer just pulled an organizer aside and spoke with them about the portion of the University’s “Forms of Expression” policy that reads, “Sleeping in outdoor space of any kind is prohibited,” prompting the organizer to wake up a small number of protesters who appeared to be sleeping.

Organizers have been making announcements advising protesters on health and safety measures, including staying warm and where to use the bathroom. One told the crowd that since the nearest building that remained open, Frist Campus Center, would close at 2 a.m., they should use the bathroom in Terrace Club, which the organizer said will be unlocked. Terrace’s president did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Protesters remain in courtyard into the night, chilling temperatures — April 26, 12:42 a.m.

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As announced earlier, protesters are taking shifts in the courtyard to stay awake, in compliance with University policy. About 80 people are out, mostly sitting on blankets.

Earlier, organizers advised protesters to bring blankets, gloves, hats, and other cold weather attire, and they have been distributing supplies as well. Currently, the outdoor temperature ranges between 34–40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

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“Free free Palestine” banner
Annie Rupertus / The Daily Princetonian

Another banner had been raised by 11 p.m. from trees near McCosh Hall, reading, “Free free Palestine” and “Disclose! Divest!”

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Two arrested students not “evicted” according to the University — April 25, 8:38 p.m.

The two graduate students who were arrested this morning and barred from campus will be allowed into their housing.

In a statement to the ‘Prince,’ University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss said, “The University has not ‘evicted’ anyone today.  Under University protocol, Public Safety may initially accompany students barred from campus (regardless of reason) to their University housing to collect whatever belongings they require in the short term, until the specific terms of their bar from campus are determined by the designated administrator.”

He added, “The students barred from the main campus today are permitted to remain in their University-owned housing, as the designated administrator determined that their bar does not extend to their non-dormitory residences.” Many graduate students live in housing that is owned by the University but is not dormitory housing.   

“We are not immune to this” says Gov. Phil Murphy of campus protests across U.S. — April 25, 7:21 p.m.

Governor Phil Murphy commented on campus protests in New Jersey and across the U.S. during a televised segment of “Ask Phil” with News12 New Jersey this afternoon. 

“Free, peaceful speech and demonstration is a hallmark of the United States of America and it always should be,” Murphy said of protests and encampments ongoing at academic institutions across the country.

Murphy noted “raging antisemitism, not just on college campuses,” citing incidents at Columbia and Yale University, including one Jewish student at Yale who sustained an eye injury during protests earlier this week. It does not appear that any instances of physical violence have occurred at Princeton’s demonstration.

“You’ve got hateful behavior … and you’ve got the prevention of institutions of higher education from being able to prosecute the education of the kids who are there to get educated. And both of that is unacceptable.”

The governor acknowledged the encampment at Princeton, directing viewers to a guest contribution from University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 and specifically highlighting his framework of “time, place, and manner” as critical considerations for protests, regardless of their cause. He also pointed to an Apr. 10 break-in and vandalization of the Rutgers Islamic Center, saying “there’s Islamophobia at the same time.”

“We are not immune to this,” he said.

Organizers say Hezbollah flag was put away “immediately” — April 25, 6:52 p.m.

A flag of Hezbollah, a southern Lebanon-based militant group, was spotted at the sit-in around 5:16 p.m. Hezbollah is designated a terrorist group by the United States government.

Organizers told the ‘Prince’ that once they saw the flag, they asked that it be put away. 

Myles McKnight ’23, former President of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition (POCC), circulated photos of the flags via X.

Demonstrators say they are committing to staying overnight, break up for the first time — April 25, 6:22 p.m.

Protestors announced that they would be staying in McCosh Courtyard overnight, signing up to stay awake in shifts rather than sleeping. Free expression rules from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students forbid sleeping “in outdoor space of any kind.” VP Calhoun’s email from Wednesday morning described “sleeping in any campus outdoor space” as “inherently unsafe.”

“We have shown up in a big way today for solidarity with Palestine. But we need to continue to show up. We need to continue to hold this space, and we will be continuing to hold this space throughout the night,” said Alan Plotz ’25 in a speech.

For the first time in the 11 hours since first arriving, protestors also began marching around McCosh courtyard and near Murray-Dodge Hall, chanting “Free Palestine,” “up, up, with liberation. Down, down with occupation,” and “from the River to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Community members are setting up tables and bringing food as people start to break for dinner.

Speeches continue at sit-in — April 25, 5:43 p.m.

Larry Hamm ’78 recounted his time protesting as a student at the University outside Nassau Hall in 1978 to pressure the University to divest from apartheid South Africa. The University later adopted a policy of selective divestment, withdrawing from individual companies that fell below certain standards about their operations in South Africa.

“We picketed Nassau Hall for 66 consecutive days,” he said, drawing cheers and applause. After the daily protests, Hamm took part in a 27-hour sit-in in Nassau Hall with 210 students.

“There’s gotta be a role for everybody,” Hamm said. “So when 210 people went in and took over Nassau Hall, 400 people went and camped in front of Nassau Hall.”

Hamm also spoke about the importance of ensuring that student movements were sustained and would not fizzle out after individuals graduated.

Noura Shoukfeh ’25, a Palestinian-American student, read a series of poems written by five-year-olds in Gaza and made an impassioned plea to Princeton and community members.  

“I understand that we’re tired here at Princeton. Princeton in general is an exhausting school. I believe they do it on purpose,” Shoukfek told the crowd. “You can’t notice what’s going on in the world if you’re busy. But if we’re tired here, imagine what it’s like to be a Palestinian,” she said.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a professor in the African American studies department, also spoke at sit-in, comparing the action to previous actions in campus in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014. 

“What is different today? Why in this instance, are we denied the right to protest, to assemble, to speak,” she asked. “We claim to honor critical thinking, to encourage students to think for themselves, and most of all, for students to actually stand for something. It all sounds good, except for Palestine. And I commend you for refusing to accept the Palestinian exception.”

Taylor is among the professors who have signed a letter, published in the ‘Prince,’ on boycotting Columbia University and Barnard College until the schools reinstate and drop charges against students suspended and arrested for protesting.

Members of Faculty for Justice in Palestine stood to speak in quick succession. These included Joshua Guild, a professor in the Department of African American Studies, Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, the chair of the Near Eastern Studies Department, Dan-El Padilla Peralta, a professor in the Classics department, V. Mitch McEwen, a professor in the School of Architecture, Tehseen Thaver, a professor in the religion department, and Zia Mian, the co-director of the Program in Science and Global Security.

Banner drops from McCosh, encampments at other universities — April 25, 4:54 p.m.

Tom Sweeney, a senior research specialist in the Department of Economics, addressed the crowd about encampments at other universities, focusing on public and state schools.

“Right now, the only media attention is going to the Ivy League. That’s not ok,” he said. He then read out the names of other universities where students had faced arrest disciplinary action, including the University of Southern California and the University of Texas-Austin, after which protestors cried “shame.”

Around 4:20 p.m., numbers at the sit-in began to dwindle slightly, and organizers started chants urging people to stay. 

“You can use the bathroom, you can get tea,” Rao said to the crowd. She added that the goal is to stay for as long as possible.

Around 4:00 p.m., protestors temporarily dropped a banner saying “Divest Now Free Palestine” from McCosh second story window. PSAFE confronted protestors and the banner was quickly pulled out.

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The banner dropped from the top floor of McCosh Hall.
Vitus Larrieu / The Daily Princetonian

Orange Key moves tours, professors speak out — April 25, 3:45 p.m.

‘Prince’ reporters observed that Orange Key tours taking place around 3 p.m. avoided the McCosh Courtyard, and instead walked down Chapel Drive near Prospect House.

Around the same time, Noura Erekat, a human rights attorney and associate professor at Rutgers University, spoke to the crowd.

“We and our tax dollars and our tuition are actually fighting and waging that genocide, and it is our responsibility to lay our bodies down across the tracks of those bulldozers, of those planes, of those machines,” Erekat said.  

“Thank you so much for your courage and your leadership, your inspiration, for your model, for the historic pivot you are making in the United States,” she added.

Earlier today, Professor of History Gyan Prakash held his seminar on the courtyard, inviting others to join. His course HIS411: World After Empire is typically held at 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

“The readings were very connected to what’s going on over here. So, they [students] read Angela Davis, who speaks about how political activism is also a site of thinking about connections between different struggles and thinking about it internationally.” Prakash said. “This spot was also a good teaching moment for students.”

Former New York Times Middle East bureau chief Chris Hedges, who spoke earlier today at the protest, is facing a one-day ban from campus. Hedges previously told the ‘Prince’ that PSAFE communicated he would face a 90-day ban, a statement which some student organizers reiterated in speeches. 

“A speaker at the protest was warned multiple times by University officials that amplified sound is not allowed due to its impact on University activities, including classes,” University spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss wrote to the ‘Prince.’ 

“The speaker, who is not a member of the University community, was issued a one-day ban from campus and left campus,” he added.

Organizers hold press conference — April 25, 1:24 p.m.

In a response to a question about whether protesters would be staying overnight, Aditi Rao GS said, “We will be staying here until Princeton University divests,” at a short press conference.

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Organizers speaking at the press conference.
Calvin Grover / The Daily Princetonian

A number of organizers spoke, including Emanuelle Sippy ’25, who said, “We recognize that this institution, the very place that we are being educated, is intimately connected to immense harm, is intimately connected to killing and starving people en masse. We will no longer ignore this, and we call on this university to rectify its active support, its active profiting off, its active investments in this genocidal campaign.”

Sippy connected today’s sit-in to historical campus protest movements, saying, “It’s very easy to look back on moments in history, be it student movements that opposed South African apartheid, the Vietnam War, or moments like Kent State, and valorize student movements. It is harder to do this work in the present.”

Rosangela Lopez ’25 talked about the mood at the sit-in, saying, “we’re just really having a good time. We’re standing in solidarity with other students across the U.S., across the world, and of course, with the people of Palestine. We’re playing music, dancing, singing, chanting, and fighting for liberation.”

Maximillian Meyer ’27 repeatedly asked organizers speaking at the press conference to condemn Hamas and “calls for the genocide of the Jewish people.” 

“As a progressive Jewish student, I can say that I take seriously antisemitism and I define antisemitism as threats to Jewish safety,” Sippy responded. “We understand that a movement for Palestinian freedom and life is actually deeply intertwined with the safety of Jewish people both in the land of Israel and Palestine, and here on this very campus. The atrocities that were committed on October 7 were horrific. And they do not change the fact that in the last six months, once again, over 34,000 Palestinian lives have been taken, 70 percent of whom are non-combatants. 70,000 Palestinians have been wounded, and the devastation that we have witnessed in the last six months warrants every ounce of our energy.”

Organizers also addressed the two students arrested early in the morning and noted that one of the arrestees allegedly sustained wrist injuries due to zip ties. Princeton Israeli Apartheid Divest made a post on X regarding the allegation.

Earlier today, the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) wrote in a listserv email that they canceled their student walkout for workers scheduled today “in light of the Palestinian liberation encampment.”

“Later, we will announce a date for next week to show solidarity with our service workers on campus,” they wrote in an email.

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Mats for people to pray on.
Calvin Grover / The Daily Princetonian

Also earlier, several dozen Muslim students began their second prayer of the day, Dhur, on mats set up in the courtyard, surrounded by other protestors holding keffiyehs and blankets for privacy.

Protest speaker facing threats of arrest — April 25, 12:11 p.m. 

The crowd shifted westward closer towards the center of the courtyard, with protesters leading chants like “let him speak,” and “disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest.”

Hedges and some of the crowd then migrated inside the University’s large tent in the middle of the courtyard.

Hedges told the ‘Prince’ that PSAFE told him that he has been banned from campus for 90 days and that if he doesn’t leave he’ll be arrested.

“The reaction of the University is atrocious,” Hedges said. “This is a peaceful nonviolent protest about genocide.”

Most of the crowd has now migrated back to the encampment site on the east end of the courtyard.

“You want a massacre,” one counterprotester shouted at the crowd. “Free our hostages.”

National media on the ground — April 25, 11:59 a.m. 

Max Weiss, Associate Professor of History, has just concluded his lecture, and former New York Times Middle East bureau chief Chris Hedges has addressed the crowd. Protesters chanted “let him speak” as a PSAFE officer approaches Hedges, who is speaking into a bullhorn. Protesters are forming a human chain behind him. About 250 people are gathered, and the crowd is closing in to surround the area where Hedges was speaking.

“They can arrest me, I don’t care,” Hedges said.

A number of local and national news outlets have descended on campus, including NY Post, POLITICO New Jersey, New Jersey 101.5, Channel 12 New York, CNN, and USA Today. A helicopter has been circling above. 

Five non-student demonstrators are also standing to the side with posters displaying photos of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Demonstrators Alexandra Barcohen and Riva Levy identified themselves as Princeton town community members in an interview with the ‘Prince.’

“The reason we’re here is we want people to remember that there are still 133 living hostages, and there are many more who are dead,” Levy said. “That is the most important thing.”

HIS267 public lecture begins — April 25, 11:20 a.m. 

Max Weiss, Associate Professor of History, began addressing the crowd at 11:20. His class, HIS 267: History of Palestine/Israel, typically takes place at 11:00 a.m. on Thursdays. “I see many of my students here,” Weiss says. “I decided to walk out of class today in solidarity with my friends at the University of Texas-Austin who have called for a university strike today.”

“I'm really, really happy that Professor Weiss decided to do a talk here. Like he’s been talking about, there’s been some severe academic repression,” Nipuna Ginige ’26 told the ‘Prince.’ Nipuna is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and a student in HIS 267. “To have a figure like him who’s very prominent in these studies come out here and speak to everyone, despite the ongoing repression both on this campus and on campuses all over, it speaks very powerfully to me.”

Crowd grows ahead of public lecture — April 25, 10:57 a.m. 

Organizer Aditi Rao GS is telling protesters and passerby that “the inaugural lecture of the Popular University for Gaza” will soon take place by Max Weiss, Associate Professor of History. “Class is about to be in session,” she added.

Protesters are chanting “silence is violence” as students pass by on the way to class.

The crowd has swelled to more than 150 people, including more undergraduates than at the beginning of the protest this morning. Community members are painting signs and reading books. Some of the counterprotestors who assembled around 10:30 have left.

A few more counterprotesters, different from those who attended first thing in the morning, have assembled near the McCosh side of the courtyard. At least one is carrying an Israeli flag.

“This is where class is today” — April 25, 10:00 a.m. 

Protesters are chanting, “this is where class is today,” and “join us.” Earlier, organizers asked the faculty present to raise their hands, and more than a dozen people identified themselves.

Classes ongoing — April 25, 9:47 a.m. 

Classes have started for the morning. The ‘Prince’ has confirmed that at least one Classics precept has been canceled.

No student organization is officially sponsoring the encampment.

Encampment erected, two grad students arrested — April 25, 7:06 a.m. 

Princeton students and community members have begun a sit-in on McCosh Courtyard. At 7 a.m., protesters entered McCosh Courtyard and began to erect tents. Three minutes later, Princeton Public Safety (PSAFE) issued their first warning. On Wednesday, Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun warned in a campus message that students will potentially face arrest and being barred from campus if they refuse to stop after a warning. At 7:06 a.m., two graduate students — Achinthya Sivalingam GS and Hassan Sayed GS — were arrested by PSAFE, according to a release from the organizers.

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

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly attributed a quote to a student organizer regarding the appearance of a Hezbollah flag in the courtyard. The ‘Prince’ regrets this error.

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

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