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Palestinian support groups kick off 'Tent State' events, cancels silent walkout after U. warning

On Monday, the Endowment Justice Collective (EJC) discussed the University's alleged failures in Palestinian advocacy and protection at a press conference held in Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus in accordance with the Palestinian Youth Movement's call for a global strike. – Photo by Anushka Dhariwal

On Monday afternoon, the Endowment Justice Collective (EJC), the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) began a series of sit-in events being billed as modern-day Tent City. The groups had originally promoted a call for students to protest the international conflict by walking out of classes in protest, but canceled that aspect of the day's event after receiving an email from University administrators.

The email read: "SJP, other recognized student groups and any other responsible parties could be held accountable for disruptions, damages or violence stemming from your promotion of this national call to action," the email read, according to an Instagram post from SJP.

An EJC representative said this wording was rooted in racial stereotypes that portray SJP as terroristic and violent in nature. In doing so, the administration not only violated principles of free speech but also disregarded the group's status as students, particularly as this messaging comes on the heels of finals week, according to the representative.

The representative explained how the event was part of a revival of the​ Tent State University movement, an organizing effort that started at the University in 2003. The initiative, which originally stemmed from a push to limit statewide financial cuts resulting from the U.S.'s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at the time, involved University community members setting up tents on campus as a form of protest.

After a recitation of the Palestinian national anthem, a representative from the EJC read off a prepared statement on a podium decorated with a sign labeled, "Divest now."  They noted that the bias crime committed at the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University on Eid Al-Fitr came after "months" of submitting reports of Islamophobia with a lack of responsive action from the University. They said the Rutgers community ought to protect itself amid the administration's acts that put pro-Palestinian student groups in danger.

"There is something truly dystopian, as a Palestinian student who stands for the justice of our people, to be expected to take exams, attend class and go about 'normal' when nothing about the treatment of the Rutgers administration has been normal towards us," they said.

They then moved to discuss their calls for the University to remove itself from its collaboration with Tel Aviv University. They called upon University President Jonathan Holloway to apologize for positively speaking about his trip to Israel during a town hall hosted by the Rutgers University Student Assembly on April 4, which ended early amid large-scale unrest at the event, as previously reported by The Daily Targum.

"A final reminder to us all: The students united will never be defeated," the representative said, echoing chants made at the University faculty strike one year ago.

The events come as the conflict in the region has escalated in recent days after Iran launched a retaliatory attack over the weekend threatening further destabilization. Rutgers Hillel responded to the situation in Israel on Instagram writing, "Just six months after the horrific events of October 7, our hearts are once again with our family, friends and loved ones in Israel as they face an attack launched by Iran and its proxies."

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove mentions of Jack Ramirez, Rutgers University Student Assembly president and the headline has been updated from “Endowment Justice Collective discusses 'dystopian' U. administration behavior at press conference” to its current headline.

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