Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

13 arrested at Stanford as Pro-Palestinian protesters occupy president’s office

Parents for Palestine sign over bike in front of tents and Palestine flags at the Pro-Palestine encampment at Stanford University on May 12, 2024.  (Amy Katz/ZUMA Press Wire/TNS)
By Jenny Jarvie Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES – Law enforcement officers descended on Stanford University on Wednesday morning and arrested 13 pro-Palestinian activists who occupied President Richard Saller’s office on the last day of spring classes, vowing they would not leave until administrators met their demands to divest.

At around 6 a.m., a small group of students and alumni entered Saller’s office on the main quad. After barricading themselves inside, they named the building “Dr. Adnan’s office” in honor of Dr. Adnan al-Bursh, a leading Palestinian surgeon who died in April in an Israeli detention facility.

The occupation lasted about an hour and a half. At around 7:30 a.m. – as protesters outside chanted “Free, Free Palestine” – law enforcement officers broke open a door with a crowbar and entered the building. The university said the building has been cleared. By 8 a.m., police from the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office and Stanford University Dept. of Public Safety had cleared the building of protesters. Liberate Stanford and Stanford University announced that 13 students were arrested.

According to a Stanford Daily reporter on the scene, an injured Stanford University Dept. of Public Safety deputy was taken out of the building on a stretcher.

“We love you,” protesters shouted and cheered at the arrested activists as law enforcement escorted them from the building with their hands zip tied behind their backs.

“We see you! We love you!” they chanted. “We will be here to free you!”

“THE STUDENT INT1FADA IS GROWING,” Liberate Stanford wrote in a statement on Instagram as the building was occupied. “We refuse to leave until Stanford Administration and the Stanford Board of Trustees meet our demands and take action to address their role in enabling and profiting from the ongoing genocide in Gaza.”

About 50 students – most wearing black with their faces wrapped in kaffiyehs – linked arms and surrounded the building in solidarity with the occupying students. Some held a banner that read: “While Gaza bleeds Stanford stalls. Divest. Disclose. Amnesty.”

In a statement, the university said the activists “unlawfully entered” the building that houses the offices of the president and provost.

“There has been extensive damage to the interior and exterior of the building. No other campus operations have been affected at this time,” the statement said.

The university did not respond to a request for information about an injured law enforcement officer.

The protesters – who call themselves an autonomous group of students unaffiliated with any official student group – are calling on Stanford to add the divestment bill submitted by Stanford Against Apartheid in Palestine to the next Board of Trustees meeting, with a recommendation by Saller to support the bill, disclose finances from fiscal year 2022, and drop all disciplinary and criminal charges against pro-Palestinian students.

“If these demands are met, we will leave your office, President Saller,” an activist wearing sunglasses, a mask and a kaffiyeh said as she sat at a wooden desk inside the building in a video posted on Instagram by Liberate Stanford.

“I want you to think about your legacy,” she added. “No one is going to remember your historical research or your eight months as president. What they will remember is your silence and complicity in this genocide.”

Divisions swiftly emerged among the protesters after the university’s historic main quad was spray painted and vandalized with slogans such as “DE@TH 2 ISR@HELL,” “Kill cops” and “PIGS TASTE BEST DEAD.”

In a statement, Liberate Stanford condemned activists who they claimed “took it upon themselves to spray paint or vandalize the outside of these buildings.”

“These are not the principles we abide by and these actions are disrespectful to the souls of the Palestinians who passed in their just struggle,” Liberate Stanford wrote. “The intentions of this movement are not to create unnecessary labor for service workers, and we refuse to have our uprising hijacked by unknown agitators.”

The occupation comes after months of protests and negotiations between Stanford officials and pro-Palestinian activists. Last year, protesters set up a sprawling encampment, Sit-in to Stop Genocide, in White Plaza, which became the longest sit-in in Stanford history, until administrators enforced a camping ban in February “out of concern for the health and safety of our students.”

In April, activists set up another encampment in White Plaza. On May 20, a small group of demonstrators attempted to occupy a mechanical engineering building, blocking entryways with barricades and furniture. Saller told the faculty senate that students involved in that occupation faced “immediate suspension and the inability to participate in commencement” and may be subject to criminal charges.