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  • Trevor Klein and Nate Weisberg

UPDATE: Students Call for Pomona College President's Resignation After 20 Arrests

Pomona's Walker Wall the morning after the arrests.

This article was published in conjunction with The Forum.

On Friday, 20 students were arrested at Pomona College after refusing to identify themselves while occupying a campus building during a protest for Palestinians in Gaza. All of the protesters have since been released. On Saturday morning, members of the Claremont chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine began calling for Pomona President Gabrielle Starr’s immediate resignation for what they called her “fascistic” and “absolutely reprehensible” conduct. 

Starr characterized the protest as part of a series of escalating incidents on campus in recent months. The activists, on the other hand, said that tensions rose after Pomona College administrators and campus safety personnel began to dismantle the mock apartheid wall on Friday around 1:00 p.m. In the days leading up to the protest, some students had been sleeping in tents in front of the wall outside the Smith Campus Center Lawn. According to President Starr, the activists had consistently targeted campus tour groups in recent weeks.

Student tents outside the Smith Campus Center.

Shortly after 4:00 p.m., protestors entered Alexander Hall, an administrative building at Pomona. At least 18 students occupied Pomona President Gabrielle Starr’s office, with dozens more occupying the hallway outside her office.

A video posted by Pomona Divest Apartheid shows President Starr addressing the protesters inside of Alexander Hall. Starr can be heard saying:

“Everyone in this building is immediately subject to suspension. Harassment is following me with a camera, that is now clear. If you do not leave within the next ten minutes, every student in this building is immediately suspended from this institution… If you are from elsewhere, you will immediately be banned from this campus.”

Starr authorized a call to the police, and more than two dozen officers arrived on campus, many wearing riot gear. The officers informed protesters that they would be arrested if they did not leave. Shortly after 6:00 p.m., police began arresting demonstrators. They escorted protestors out of Alexander Hall in several small groups with their hands zip-tied behind their backs.

The next morning, SJP organizers discussed their next steps in a Telegram group chat. One wrote, “A faculty member informed me that they need at least 30 tenured and tenured track professors to have an emergency meeting to prevent [President Starr] from suspending the students. Right now they have at least 35…”

Another responded, “[As far as I know,] they do not have the power to stop the suspensions but will be trying to do a vote of no confidence with her / possibly push out a statement.”

SJP members also circulated email templates calling for President Starr’s resignation. The templates read:

“The public has been made aware of egregious transgressions done against students at Pomona College following their college sit-in in protest of the institution’s involvement with the genocidal state of Israel. Despite their peaceful demonstration and very reasonable demands by virtue of the currently inconsolable brutality being committed by the settler state’s regime against Palestinians…
“As a result of your contribution to normalizing this genocidal settler state’s existence and the repression of students on your campus calling for justice by calling a riot squad for their arrest and removal, students and the public demand the following: Should you demonstrate any semblance of having learned from your transgressions, as your final act as president, you will agree to your institution’s divestment in all regards from the genocidal state of Israel.
“As a supposed representative of your institution, your conduct has been fascistic in nature and absolutely reprehensible. Should you have any shame for your conduct, you will resign, drop the charges made on students, and revoke their suspensions immediately. Following these acts in this order, students and the public demand for your immediate resignation as president of this institution.”

Activists are encouraging members of the community to send these templated emails to the Pomona administration.

Claremont Faculty for Justice in Palestine expressed their support for the demonstrators but stopped short of calling for President Starr’s resignation. They called upon Starr and Pomona to:

“Immediately drop all charges against students; refrain from suspending students, who were exercising their protected rights to free speech and protest…
“Immediately reinstate any students who have been suspended already; refrain from banning non-Pomona students from campus…
“Apologize to the students and the Pomona College community for this violent and inappropriate escalation and police intervention on campus.”


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