Hundreds Take to City College in Art-Filled Gaza Solidarity Encampment

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The Gaza solidarity encampment at the City College of New York on Friday, April 26, 2024 (photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

As of 9am yesterday, April 25, some 300 City College of New York (CCNY) community members have taken over the campus quad along Convent Avenue in upper Manhattan in an art-filled Gaza solidarity encampment. The students and supporters are demanding freedom for Palestine and parent school City University of New York’s (CUNY) divestment from Zionist funders and donors as well as the cancelation of any Israeli exchange or Birthright programs through CUNY and financial transparency among its institutions. 

Despite the presence of New York Police Department (NYPD) officers and CCNY security at the college campus yesterday evening, there have not been significant escalations or arrests. NYPD eventually left the campus without clearing the encampment and CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodriguez called on CCNY security to leave the site for the night. 

Multicolored tents, protest art, and signs speckle the lawn of the campus quad. An enormous display of hand-painted canvas banners and posters expressing CUNY support for Palestine, and calling for a fully-funded university system with free tuition, surround the base of the central flagpole. A food and hygiene station is set up on one side of the lawn, while a large people’s library is set up on the other, and a collaborative whiteboard on the quad is filled with messages and visuals. Many campers decorated their tents with posters and drawings, and an impromptu art zone was established for communal materials and supplies for campers to make signs.

Today, April 26, the encampment continues and is one of few Gaza solidarity campus sit-ins that have been completely accessible to the public. Though it’s currently spring break across CUNY institutions until Wednesday, May 1, a majority of those participating are CCNY and broader CUNY students, faculty, and alumni. The demonstration has been largely peaceful and organized, though Hyperallergic encountered a brief provocation at the stairs leading to the encampment that resulted in an unaffiliated offender being led away from the site by police officers at approximately 3:50pm. 

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Canvas banners and flags surround a central flagpole. (photo Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic)
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A whiteboard filled with drawings and messages of support at the CCNY campus (photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

As the oldest CUNY institution, the CCNY campus has a storied history of onsite protests and activism and is perhaps the most central and accessible meeting point, as other CUNY schools like Hunter College are spread across different buildings.

“What’s outstanding is that this is the most working class university that we have,” said Queens College professor of studio art and visual artist Chloë Bass in an onsite interview with Hyperallergic. Bass was among several CUNY faculty members called to the encampment for support.

“I am very excited about what’s happening at Columbia, Yale, NYU, the New School, and Emory, and Harvard, but this is a public school that is made up of workers, so it is people who I would say are disproportionately affected by the intersectionality of all of these issues, Bass continued.

Multicolored tents, protest art, and signs speckle the lawn of the campus quad.

Bass came to campus with adjunct professor Alicia Grullón of Queens College’s studio art department. Grullón also emphasized to Hyperallergic that “the risk factors affecting CCNY’s working students are different than those of the students at elite universities.”

Grullón noted that yesterday especially, there were flags for Haiti, Puerto Rico, Congo, and trans liberation alongside the Palestinian flag, adding that “all these issues are actively being talked about here in relation to Palestine.”

“Palestine is everywhere, and students from all walks of life can see themselves and their struggles in Palestine,” they said. “The encampment is grounded in an understanding that yes, this is for a free Palestine, for divestment, to stop the crime and the poisoning of people in the Congo, and so on. Because we are humanity.”

The CCNY campus has a storied history of onsite protests and activism.
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A sign asks visitors to “respect personal boundaries.” (photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)
A pin with the words “CUNY” and “GAZA” on a student’s backpack at the encampment
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Improvised posters on United Postal Service mail labels read “Jews for a Ceasefire” and “The People United Will Never Be Defeated”.

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