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  • Emilio Bankier

Encampment at Site of Pomona Commencement

The encampment on Marston Quad.

On Monday, May 6, students calling for divestment from Israel set up a new encampment under Pomona’s commencement tent on Marston Quad. The encampment joins similar protests at universities around the country, including neighboring Pitzer College. Pomona has already had one such encampment, which stood from late March to early April near the Smith Campus Center until it was dismantled on April 5 by the participating student-protesters.

The encampment has been set up by Pomona Divest from Apartheid (PDfA), a student-activist group founded in the Fall of 2023. The encampment tents are near Big Bridges Auditorium, with a handful on top of the stage where graduating students would be handed their diplomas. 

The group announced the encampment on social media, mentioning the April 5th arrest of 20 students after a demonstration inside and around Alexander Hall, Pomona’s main administrative building. “The encampment is the most recent development in a 7-month long escalation campaign… Pomona College has responded to student pro-Palestine organizing with unrelenting repression,” the group states. 

An email to Pomona’s student body was sent out at 9:08 a.m. Monday morning from Dean Avis Hinkson, asking that community members avoid the encampment area and "maintain an atmosphere that supports our community." She further announced that campus buildings would shift to swipe access only and that the safety of all community members was a priority.

The large commencement installation on Marston Quad had been under 24/7 watch from private security for the past weeks as it was constructed and used for Alumni Weekend. One Pomona administrator expressed confusion as to whether security was present when demonstrators arrived. Video shows the encampment being set up in the early hours of Monday morning, with masked individuals dismantling a fence which had been erected around Marston Quad and setting up their tents. The fences have since become makeshift barricades around the encampment. 

The encampment’s guidelines are outlined in a document titled “Principles of Unity.” The six page long PDF includes a “tier” hierarchy for encampment members, with green being members not sleeping at the camp and unwilling to be arrested. The highest tier, red, designates those at the camp “24/7,” who understand that “arrest is an intended and planned ‘consequence’ for this action.” The “Community Norms” section begins with a preamble stating “We are here to remind everyone that the camp is an active site of resistance. The camp is not a party or ‘cool hangout spot’ :)”

Safety is a stated priority. Members are urged to remain unidentifiable and are warned of “recent and growing police and Zionist violence that has been unleashed on college campuses.”

The document concludes with the titular “Political Principles of Unity,” which explicit the encampment’s focus and demands, including a rejection of “reconciliation and recognition from the administration, pigs, politicians, and press,” and “neo-liberal glorification of an empty ‘nonviolence.’” Some further points are a land acknowledgement, a rejection of students being the only legitimate actors on campus, and a commitment to “take care of each other.” 

It ends by saying they are “refusing to leave negotiations without a legally binding contract and a plan to enforce it.” The stated demands, which have been the same since the start of PDfA’s campaign since fall 2023, are disclosure and divestment, an academic boycott of Israel, a call for ceasefire, a condemnation of Israel, and the institution of anti-discrimination policies for “Palestinians, Muslim, Arab, SWANA, Black, Brown, and indigenous students.”

It is unclear how Pomona’s administration will respond. Its previous use of police to clear the April 5 sit-in of Alexander Hall provoked outrage from many students and faculty, the latter voting in early April to condemn all “present and future militarization and use of police on the campus.”


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