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The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

Gaza Campus Protests Come Home

A look at Gaza solidarity encampments at the University of New Mexico and beyond.
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  • A sign calling out UNM president, Garnett S. Stokes, for her lack of cooperation with protestors and ongoing investments in Israel.

  • A water-damaged sign encouraging people to contact Senator Martin Heinrich to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

  • Graffiti adjacent the camp on a wall near UNM’s duck pond.

  • Shipping pallets, tents, and tarps make up the makeshift encampment.

  • Shipping pallets and signs act as walls to the central gathering area.

  • A sign criticizing UNM’s attempts at clearing the encampment and charging students with trespassing.

  • A Palestinian flag stands tall above the encampment. A member of the encampment parks their bicycle near the entrance (bottom right).

  • The front of the UNM Gaza solidarity encampment at the UNM duck pond.

  • Chalk printed on the sidewalk near the encampment.

Campus protests have been a contentious topic over the past month, looming over the end of the year activities and driving a potent wedge between administrators and students. Beginning from Columbia–an encampment movement in which students pitched tents on campus lawns and gathering areas to protest their universities’ investments and cooperation with Israeli, Zionist, or otherwise ‘complicit’ companies and organizations– it has now spread across the nation and the world. From Dartmouth University to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), students, as well as some faculty, joined together in defiance of university orders to disband the camps.
Scenes of police facing off with peaceful protesters evoked for many the 1968 protests against the Vietnam War and in support of universal civil rights. Fears of a repeated Kent State shooting, in which four students were shot dead by police responding to protests in 1970, were relevant at universities like UCLA, where some of the most brutal police crackdowns occurred as well as violence from counter protestors. Columbia students occupied and renamed Hamilton Hall as “Hind’s Hall”–in reference to the six year-old Gazan child who was murdered along with six other family members and two paramedics by the Israeli Defense Force. This was the first time that the building had been occupied in protest since 1996.
While some institutions have taken steps to compromise with the protestors, most colleges and universities have made little to no genuine progress, instead preferring to forcefully disband students. Some of the exceptions to this include institutions such as Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and Northwestern in Chicago, Illinois, both of which reached deals with protesting students in which the encampments were voluntarily disbanded in return for the universities making steps towards meeting some of the students’ demands. Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, the alma mater of the activist, Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003, made an agreement in which concrete steps towards divestment from Israel became possible.
The campus movement has implications much closer to home as well, however. At the University of New Mexico (UNM), a group of students have also set up an encampment and have experienced crackdowns by police similar to the ones at other universities.
On the north end of UNM’s duck pond, an array of tents and tarps formed a small camp. In the center stood a makeshift shack or gathering area, complete with shipping pallets, countless signs expressing dissatisfaction with UNM’s administration and support for Palestine and Gaza, and Palestinian flags.
A number of protestors milled around the camp; one student came in full graduation attire to take a picture in front of the encampment, while others brought food and drinks to the permanent inhabitants of the camp. Behind a shipping pallet and under a tarp, a number of individuals sat on couches, foldable chairs, blankets, and whatever else might serve as a place to escape the wet ground. A hole in the tarp roof kept spilling water into the gathering, but nobody seemed bothered by this inconvenience.
All of the students chose to remain anonymous for understandable reasons, given the doxing campaigns against other pro-Palestinian protestors going back as early as October 2023. They described harassment by police from the first night after the camp was set up, saying, “[T]he first night the police came in was probably the hardest. There [were]… around 20 officers the first night…. So for the first week and a half, they were coming pretty much every night, multiple times a night, to harass us and take our stuff.” Since protestors occupied UNM’s Student Union Building (SUB) at the end of April, however, the confrontations have cooled off. Even though the school year at UNM ended on May 11th, the protestors said there were no plans to disband the encampment but declined to elaborate on future actions. Charges of criminal trespass and misuse of public property against several students are ongoing, however, after 16 students were arrested during one night of police engagement. Protestors pointed to New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, as a place which experienced greater and more violent police crackdown, especially in recent days.
They described the UNM encampment as inclusive, pointing to the representation of queer individuals, people of color, and an array of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and community members. One student said, “[The encampment] is more colorful and… more representative of the actual cultural distribution [of New Mexico].” Another added, “It’s a community that’s inclusive of everybody, and if you’re not inclusive of somebody because of sexual identity, gender, race, creed, or religion, we ask you to leave.”
The activists rejected accusations of antisemitism and hate towards Jews that have been heavily circulated by politicians and media organizations. They pointed towards two Jewish students who were among the 16 arrested by police, as well as other Jewish groups in the community who negate the idea that Zionism must be connected to Judaism. One person, who had been working on their computer and remaining relatively quiet added, “I think it’s pretty antisemitic to equate a whole group of people with a[n]… oppressive nation state…. [T]he whole narrative that being anti-Zionist is antisemitic is in itself an antisemitic narrative because it reduces Jewish people, who are incredibly diverse in their opinions… to just one nation state [which] is committing genocide. Using a group of people to justify a genocide is really offensive, and that’s what a lot of… Jewish people here have said.”
Many supporters of the campus protests, such as Jewish professor at the New School for Social Research in New York, Natasha Lennard, look to delineate discomfort in a certain perspective from physical danger, “to distinguish between genuine threat and paranoia.” Lennard points out that antisemitism is a real threat but not one that inherently develops from pro-Palestinian protests and sentiments.
Student activism has a long history in the United States and around the world, and it’s unlikely for this instance to be different. Already, protestors at UNM point to President Joe Biden’s pause on particular arms shipments to Israel as a success, despite his claim that protests had no effect on his policy. Regardless, cultural movements like the Gaza solidarity encampments have an important, if controversial, place in history and mark great division and dissatisfaction among the populace.

Since this story was originally written, the UNM Solidarity Encampment was cleared by police, and at least six additional protestors and community members were arrested. The group has not announced reconstruction efforts since police raided the camp on May 15th.

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About the Contributor
Darin Eberhardt '25
Darin Eberhardt '25, Opinion, News, and Features Editor
Darin Eberhardt '25 has been working with the Advocate since 7th grade and joined the Editorial Board in early 2023. Always finding ways to keep his schedule near the brink of overload, Darin is a twice elected student senator (there's no conflict of interest, he swears); he is also a member of the Academy debate team, where he gained his love for rhetoric in all its forms. Darin's Palestinian heritage helped him learn to develop conviction paired with open-mindedness in his opinions. Darin treats each of his articles as an exploration into the nuances in issues that matter, treating every story as a new learning opportunity. His belief in the best of others inspires Darin to look beyond first impressions and search for what makes us all human. When he isn't engaged in extracurriculars, Darin enjoys tennis with his dad and plays with his two dogs.

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  • J

    Jack LemelinMay 22, 2024 at 7:56 am

    We need to stop giving support to the terrorist organization of Hamas. Hamas is hiding behind civilians as a human shield. They attacked Israel on October 7, and put military stashes below schools, hospitals, and mosques. They are a terrorist organization, and they are evil.

  • C

    CoyoteMay 21, 2024 at 9:07 pm

    I’m extremely proud of the unm protestors. We MUST continue to press the Biden administration to cease ALL AID to the terrorist state of Israel. We can no longer tolerate children being dismembered and slaughtered with American weapons. We can not be complicit to genocide.