As members of Students for Justice in Palestine at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, we condemn the CUNY administration’s suspension of City College of New York (CCNY) students Khalil Vasquez and Tafadar Sourov for their anti-militarization activism.
The Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY (“Ad Hoc Committee”) organizes to oppose the CUNY Board of Trustees’ appointment of former CIA director General David Petraeus at Macaulay Honors College. On September 17, 2013, six CUNY students (“the CUNY 6”) engaged in peaceful protest against Petraeus’ appointment were violently arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental administration, riot, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.
On October 20, CCNY security abruptly seized and shut down the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Community and Student Center (“Morales/Shakur Center”) at CCNY to prevent student and community access. The Morales/Shakur Center was won through student struggle and is operated independently of the university.
In the words of CCNY students, the Morales/Shakur Center “has been an invaluable space for community groups to meet on campus, for students to connect with their political elders, and for movement histories to be retained and shared in Harlem.” In particular, the Ad Hoc Committee actively uses the Morales/Shakur Center as their home-base for organizing.
On October 24, CCNY students peacefully demonstrated against the seizure of the Morales/Shakur Center. They were met with police brutality, pepper spray, and handcuffs. Four days later, the CCNY administration announced the indefinite suspension of Vasquez and Sourov.
Vasquez and Sourov are leaders in the Black Student Union and Students for Justice in Palestine, respectively, as well as in the Ad Hoc Committee. Like the CUNY 6, Vasquez and Sourov are also youth of color. This is a blatant example of political intimidation, targeting the growing anti-militarization movement at CUNY, its leaders, and the interconnected causes that they represent on campus.
As the United States government funds drone wars and occupations overseas, New York State continues to slash education subsidies at alarming rates, resulting in burdensome tuition hikes, unsustainable student debt accumulation, and poverty wages for adjuncts. It is within this context that students at CCNY are organizing to confront the ugly relationship between austerity in higher education and the American military-industrial complex, as demonstrated by CUNY’s hiring of Petraeus.
From the U.S.’s violent foreign policy abroad, to the NYPD’s criminalization of New York’s Black, Latino, Arab, and Muslim communities, the silencing of student activists at CUNY reaffirms our belief that oppressive policies inherent in U.S. militarism are present here at home. The legal repression and intimidation that Palestine solidarity activists face in the U.S. is part and parcel of the U.S.’s support for Israel’s ethnic cleansing, military occupation, and apartheid system inflicted onto the Palestinian people. The prosecution of students at the University of California, Irvine for First Amendment activity and the recent arrest of Palestinian American community leader Rasmea Odeh, to name but two examples, point toward this disturbing nationwide trend.
The CUNY Law SJP chapter stands in solidarity with our fellow CUNY students facing politically motivated attacks from the police and the university. We demand that all the charges against the CUNY 6 be dropped and the suspended students are reinstated immediately.