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CSUSM joins the nationwide protest movement

CalState San Marcos students protest in front of the Kellogg Library. Photo credit: Cynthia Cunningham

SAN MARCOS — Nearly 200 protesters gathered at CalState San Marcos (CSUSM) on April 29 to demand support for Palestine.

The protest was led by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organization leading many protests and encampment movements across the nation. According to their Instagram, the protest was a call to push CSUSM “to live up to its values by disclosing and divesting its academic and business relations with Israel.” It was held on campus in the Kellogg Plaza.

Another reason for the protest was to put pressure on the university. In a DM, SJP San Marcos said it was to focus on “solidarity and getting enough student/faculty support in favor of disclosure and divestment. This was sparked by Columbia protests and mass arrests to crush free speech on campus.”

The protest also called for the university to replace the Starbucks on campus with a different coffee shop. Starbucks is one of the many companies in the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The BDS movement calls for its supporters to boycott companies it believes are “complicit in violating Palestinian rights,” according to TIME.

“No one is saying anything. Not even the president [of CSUSM] has sent out emails being neutral… There’s nothing here,” said Melissa Chico, a CSUSM student who said the protest was to break the silence on campus.

Three CalState San Marcos students hold their signs as they stand with the protest. Photo credit: Cynthia Cunningham

More than just students showed up. Some protesters from other cities joined the demonstration. Sarah, who did not provide her last name for safety reasons, came from Escondido to join the protest.

“I saw this event posted on Instagram, and I came to show my support to the Cal State San Marcos students who are in solidarity with Gazans and Palestinians,” Sarah said. “I’m an elder millennial, and it’s great to see the younger generation showing up more than my generation right now.”

A small counter-protest was also present at the event. Brandon Arik stood alone as he held the Israeli flag opposing the protest, and students walked by to offer him support. Arik said he supports the students using their right to Free Speech and protesting, but both sides should be represented.

“Not many people were standing up, so I had to do something about it,” Arik said. “There had to be a counter-protest. We can’t allow a group of people to dominate our campus without a response. So it’s my obligation as a Jew to fight for what I believe in and stand up to radical, radical, radical leftism.”

Brandon Arik (left) and Jacob Williams (right) hold the flag of Israel as a counter-protest. Photo credit: Cynthia Cunningham

As the protest continued, Arik was joined by Jacob Williams, a CSUSM student. The two held the flag together while replying to the protesters’ chants.

“You grow up hearing about silence and how silence is complicity… And I do fundamentally believe that what they were calling for is actual violence… Knowing that he was standing there alone, I couldn’t help but go and stand there with him,” Williams said.

While the exchanges between both sides of the protest remained peaceful, some campus protests have been met with violence and police involvement. Fights broke out at the protest at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and police at Columbia University burst into a building to break up a demonstration, according to CBS News.

Faculty support regarding the protest and encampment movement has been split nationwide. Some faculty and administration oppose the protests, while others have joined their students. Marcelo Garzo Montalvo, assistant professor of ethnic studies, stood with the students protesting.

Montalvo read his open letter to the CSUSM community. In it, he expressed his support for the protesters and called on the administrators to listen to the students’ demands for disclosure and divestment. He has been teaching about the conflict in Palestine to his classes. When students told him about the protest, he wanted to show up and support them.

Marcelo Garzo Montalvo, assistant professor of ethnic studies, stands in the middle of the peace circle while reading his open letter to the university. Photo credit: Cynthia Cunningham

“The context of Cal State San Marcos is now traditionally student organizing… I think the way that they framed it was saying to break the silence, to end the silence,” Montalvo said.

Montalvo also said the students successfully organized the protest and got people from around the county to show up and support them. He thinks the movement will create a space for protesting on campus, and they should celebrate their emergence.

“They were organized. They didn’t engage and get derailed by counter-protesters. They stayed focused on what we’re here for, which is solidarity with Gaza and Palestine in general,” Montalvo said.

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CSUSM joins the nationwide protest movement