Opinion: Day 2 -People’s University for Gaza at UMass


Scene from the student encampment and People's University for Gaza at UMass Amherst, April 30, 2024. Photo: Art Keene

Today, April 30, was day 2 of the Peoples’ University for Gaza at UMass Amherst. Yesterday, it was incredible to see the South Lawn between DuBois Library and the Pond being filled with tents and Palestinian flags. Yesterday, we learned that Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany notified Palestinian students that they would be listed as “stateless” in the next official student registration because Palestine is no longer recognized as a sovereign state by statistical requirements. The world hasn’t recognized Palestinian sovereignty since the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

Today, students protesting at Brown University pressured administration into a historical decision to divest from Israel. 

It actually makes sense that American universities are heavily invested in weapons manufacturers. The Morill Land-Grant Acts, which started in 1862 during the American Civil War, initiated a series of violent land thefts of approximately 10.7million acres from 245 sovereign tribal nations across so-called North America to build public universities. Perhaps this doesn’t bother you; after all, the final grievance on the American Declaration of Independence is against “the merciless Indian savages, whose warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.” 

The death toll in Gaza appears to have stalled at around 40,000 as those keeping records have been killed. The irony is not lost on me.

Governmental forces, rendered illegitimate by occupying land of sovereign states, often collaborate and learn from each other. The tear gass made in the so-called United States that’s currently being used against university students who are, across this nation, protesting against a live-streamed genocide, is the same that was being used ten years ago in Ferguson; the same that so-called Israel has used against Palestinians since that time as well. Perhaps this doesn’t bother you; our tax dollars are being used to send city and town cops to so-called Israel to be trained by the Israeli Occupying Forces and build city-sized police training facilities across 47 of our states.

Today, April 30, 2024 at 10:27 a.m, Chancellor Javier Reyes sent a message to the UMass Amherst community to announce that the “unauthorized tent encampment” had been peacefully dismantled. Yesterday, he informed us that our tents were in violation of the UMass Amherst’s “land use policy” and we would be considered trespassing on university property if we refused to comply with his order to dismantle them. Today, Chancellor Reyes neglected to inform the campus community that he called for over 30 UMPD and Mass State Troopers, at 7 a.m. while most of the campus was still asleep, to force us into making a decision between continued communal living and violent carceral punishment. Perhaps this doesn’t surprise you.

Today, the People’s University for Gaza at UMass Amherst chose to protect those in our community who are most targeted by state violence. 

A land acknowledgement does not give Chancellor Reyes authority over how UMass Amherst “property” is used, but the stolen land that this university operates upon necessitates his lies about our eviction.

Ty Smart, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and teaches within the Department of English at UMass Amherst”

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