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Rutgers protest on Palestine ends, university accepts student demands

After canceling Thursday morning final exams, President Jonathan Holloway sought a means to “de-escalate” the four-day long protest on the College Avenue campus.

Photo by Allyssa Bovasso-Pignataro, NJ State House News Service

Students ended a four-day pro-Palestinian protest at Rutgers University on Thursday evening after University President Jonathan Holloway said the school would meet most of the students' demands, including an amnesty for student protestors. 

Protestors, ecstatic about their victory, began breaking down the tent encampment on Voorhees Mall, at the College Avenue campus in New Brunswick, as Rutgers University Police Department officers kept watch over the area.

Final exams on Thursday morning were postponed on the College Avenue Campus as an email from the university warned of an “anticipated escalation” in the protest. 

In all, the university said about 1,000 students and 28 scheduled exams were affected by the delay.

“We understand the importance of exams and the impact that any disruptions can have on our students’ academic progress. We are committed to doing everything in our power to provide a safe and secure environment for our students to learn and succeed,” Holloway said. 

The university met with protest leaders in the morning in an attempt to de-escalate the situation and ultimately agreed to meet most of the protestors’ list of demands. 

Protesters had occupied Voorhees Mall since Monday. The administration had locked down academic buildings Thursday morning and presented a heavier  police presence than on previous days.

The demands of the Rutgers Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, via @SpyderMonket0_0 on X

Bryan Sacks, president of the Rutgers Part-Time Lecturer Faculty Chapter (PTELFC) and the designated spokesperson for the student protestors, was adamant about not wanting to see the administration crack down on the encampment.

“We certainly don’t want to see anything we have seen in too many places around the country where that’s happened to other encampments,” he said.  

Sacks, as well as other Rutgers University union members, acted as a buffer between the students and outsiders like law enforcement and media. 

Protestors saw little opposition, with  most people passing by showing their support or not saying much at all, according to Sacks. 

A majority of protesters wore extensive face coverings, possibly to avoid being recognized by police or university officials. They asked outside media to refrain from taking pictures, especially of peoples’ faces. Protestors were also reluctant to give their names and generally spoke, if they spoke at all, on the condition they would remain anonymous.

Protesters received an overload of food and water donations from the community, so much so that organizers asked that future donations go to other organizations.

“It’s one of the most wonderful things about this that this is an effort to provide for those who need it,” said Sacks, one of the few in the encampment willing to be identified and speak for attribution.

Each situation was different for every protester. Some stayed overnight and others would leave to go home or study for finals and come back. 

While protest leaders and the university discussed the resolution, one student, who did not want to be identified, said they were participating in the encampment in between studying and exams. They stated that Islam is a peaceful, submissive religion and the people of Palestine would not want these students protesting to put their education on the line at the risk of getting arrested. 

About an hour before the deadline, a majority of students not involved in the encampment showed up and flooded the area. Israel supporters used profanity and commented on protesters taking videos of them. 

Once SPJ leaders announced the university had agreed to the student demands, the crowd roared with cheers and approval and immediately began to disassemble the encampment.

This article was republished with permission from NJ State House News Service.

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