Against Campus Militarization and Repression

We condemn the militarization of campuses and repression of students, faculty, and staff demanding an end to the US-Supported Israeli genocide of Palestinians, disclosure and divestment from Israel, and re-investment in our communities.

Duke Academics and Staff for Justice in Palestine

7 May 2024

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed four Kent State students and injured nine who were protesting, along with students nationwide, the US government’s decision to escalate its war on Vietnam by invading Cambodia. Eleven days later, on May 15, 1970, police killed two students from Jackson State College in Mississippi and injured 12 others near another anti-war protest, using a racialized “law and order” state-sponsored violence logic that in our times flies under the flag of “safety and security.” These anniversaries mark historical milestones of dissent against racism, police violence, impoverishment, and commitments to war at home and abroad as opposed to the well-being of peoples and environments “here” and “there.”

We write as we here in the US grapple with similar intensifications of university and state repression, war-levels of violence not only abroad but at home, and militarization against student-led pro-Palestine liberation and anti-genocide activism and encampments across the country. We have not seen this kind of violence in many generations. 

Notably, the uprisings have been motivated by US and university support for unmitigated Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza and historic Palestine, who in turn are resisting their subordination to a racist settler-colonial system that has been actively supported by the West since inception.

Closer to home, on April 30, 2024, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts twice unleashed off-campus police in assaults on peaceful protesters at the Triangle Gaza Solidarity Encampment at UNC Chapel Hill, resulting in the abuse, arrests and suspensions of peaceful students and faculty from UNC, Duke University, and Meredith College, among other members of our wider community. 

On May 1, 2024, in Durham, “May Day” or International Workers Day, many of those same protesters and hundreds more welcomed the Durham Workers Assembly’s march for a living wage and a ceasefire in Gaza to Duke’s East Campus, making the point that our wellbeing is collective and sources of repression and impoverishment too often cross university-town boundaries. 

Outrageously, the city and university coordinated to close down Duke’s campus with police barricades in order to repress mobilization and protest, refusing entry onto East Campus in the joint town-gown event. 

These administrations and governments do not represent the will of the people who compose our universities and make them run—students, staff, and faculty, all laborers—as we call for an end to institutional complicity in the unbearable Israeli violence being perpetrated against the Palestinian people. This Israeli war on Palestinians has deliberately killed tens of thousands of children and young people, teachers, plumbers, and artists; physically injured hundreds of thousands more; traumatized for generations an entire population; and destroyed the built environment and infrastructure. 

As Palestinian students see their futures destroyed in their homeland, so too are U.S. students now seeing education and truth denied through institutional violence and disciplinary actions aimed at silencing their solidarity with Palestinian liberation and creating fear in the larger population. 

We demand that Duke disclose its holdings and divest from all financial and academic projects that support the Zionist settler-colonial project and re-invest in the workers who make our communities places we call home.

We demand a commitment to free thinking and dissent on campus and off.

We demand reversal of the increased militarization and securitization of campuses.

We demand full amnesty for protesters bravely standing up to educate and refuse our institutions’ complicity in and profiting from the settler-colonial project in Palestine and the Israeli genocide.

We demand universities be places of studying and teaching with a commitment to improving our communities and the world.

Free, free Palestine.