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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

US unions call for Columbia University to "immediately end the repression of protest"

Protests in the Columbia Quad, March 22 -- image via X

With the ongoing Palestine solidarity protests at Columbia University in New York having been subjected to police violence and arrests -- over 100 students were arrested last week participating in protests centered around a makeshift encampment set up on the university’s quad -- several dozen US union locals and hundreds of union members have signed a solidarity letter demanding an end to the repression. These include a number of UAW locals, the Downstate NY Starbucks Workers United, the Mother Jones Staff Union, the University of Michigan Graduate Employees' Organization and many others.

On April 18th, Minouche Shafik, the President of Columbia, violated university procedures and authorized the NYPD to arrest dozens of Columbia students, including members of Student Workers of Columbia— SWC-UAW 2710. The protesting students and student workers had bravely held the Gaza Solidarity Encampment on the lawn in the center of campus for two days, joined by hundreds of student and SWC picketers protecting their encampment, and a mass mobilization of other labor organizers and the community on the streets outside the campus. The encampment’s demands included that Columbia, their school and employer, divest its financial holdings from weapons manufacturers, tech companies, and any other entities that materially benefit from the Israeli occupation and genocide of Palestinians, that Columbia make its investments transparent, and that Columbia reinstate all students facing academic discipline for pro-Palestine protest over the past few months, including five students who were suspended and evicted from their Columbia-owned housing two weeks ago.

As workers, we stand in solidarity with our union siblings in SWC-UAW 2710 who were arrested and face suspension. We call for their and their classmates’ immediate reinstatement and for Columbia to drop all charges against them, both legal and academic. We deplore President Shafik’s actions and call for Columbia to immediately end the repression of protest.

We the undersigned believe the repression and criminalization of activists, students, professors, and academic workers across the country are violations of our elementary rights to free speech and protest. If left unchecked, these attacks on academic freedom and protest against genocide will pave the way for further measures that constrain civil liberties, not only for those in universities, but for civil society at large.

The right to protest is necessary for every struggle, and the direct attack on this right is an attack on labor as well. An injury to one is an injury to all- if the Columbia students can be repressed for protesting, Columbia workers and all workers could be too. Workers stand in full solidarity with this student movement.

Solidarity forever!


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