By Maya Olson PZ ’25
Approximately 130 students picketed at the intersection of Sixth Street and North College Avenue at Pomona College for over two hours on Friday, November 3rd. With loud chants, a uniform appearance (students wore all-black and medical masks for identity protection), and an organized team with clear roles for the picket, their demands were clear: Divestment from Israel’s apartheid on Palestine. The picket followed a march to Pomona Treasurer and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Roth’s office in Alexander Hall to delegate.
On November 1st, the Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) released a cross-coalitional pledge for divestment from apartheid on their Instagram page. The pledge made evident the necessity for student action.
“Our colleges have demonstrated that they will not withdraw their support without pressure,” the pledge reads.
Despite regular mobilization throughout the month of October by hosting a vigil, protesting silently during Pitzer President Strom Thacker’s inauguration, and holding a sit-in during Pomona’s Family Weekend, SJP promised they would continue to take action for however long is necessary. They also spotlighted the importance of addressing Pomona specifically.
“We WILL escalate until our demands are met,” the statement reads. “Our first target is Pomona College. We understand that Pomona College holds the most social and economic influence of the 5Cs with a 3.88 Billion endowment. A student win on Pomona College’s campus is a win nationwide.”
On November 3rd at 12:30 p.m., students met at Walker Beach on Pomona campus for initial speeches and updates. First, student speakers recognized the unique privilege 5C students have to truly impact the world and remain relatively safe. Next, they highlighted that Pomona and the United States as a whole do not want to divest, nor do they want the liberation of oppressed folks around the world, emphasizing the imperialistic and colonial “plan” that has defined the history leading to the present moment.
SJP representatives followed with a news update from Gaza, touching on the over 10,000 person death toll since October 7th in Gaza and the recent airstrikes and bombing of the Jabalia refugee camp. They described how imperialist forces in the past have been chased out by popular resistance and how they must continue to be. Finally, before the delegation and picket, they described the necessity of staying safe while protesting and the concern for students’ safety was met by clear support structures and plans. The safety of students picketing seemed to be the priority for those who spoke, urging identity protection through mask-wearing and other accessories.
At the start of the picket, students marched inside Alexander Hall where they met Roth in his office and crowded the nearby spaces. Students spoke to Roth directly, making their call for divestment clear to administration.
“We are here today on behalf of the 5C community to reiterate that Pomona College must immediately divest from the ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of the Palestinian people,” a student said.
The student continued, addressing the often-ignored historical context behind Israel’s genocide of Palestine and the demands of the community, which they urge Roth to act upon in his role as treasurer.
“[The 5C community] has been calling for disclosure and divestment from apartheid for decades,” the student said. “As of [November 3rd], the 5C petition demanding divestment has 489 students and 165 professor signatures … Upwards of 9,000 Palestinian lives have been lost since October 7th. We do not take this lightly when we say that this blood is on your hands.”
In response, Jeff Roth handed a student a printed page titled “FAQs on Divestment and Disclosure” as students left the building chanting, “Jeff Roth you can’t hide! Stop funding genocide!”
After the delegation left the building, they traveled to the nearest intersection, Sixth Street and North College Avenue, and picketed until 3:30 p.m. On the four-way crosswalk, students filled the intersection with chanting, signs, and a refusal to stop walking for multiple hours. Some students de-escalated the situation with passersby, potential interferers, and traffic. They worked to protect each other, and turned away cars trying to cross.
Some signs held by picketers read, “Jews for Free Palestine,” “Money Speaks / Divest from War Crimes Now,” “Israel Bombs Hospitals and Amerikkka Pays for It,” and “Students Demand Our Endowment Protect Human Rights Not Fund Genocide.”
Chants included, “From Palestine to Mexico / Border walls have got to go,” “What do we want? Divestment! When do we want it? Now!” and, “when Palestine is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
SJP will continue to hold further actions indefinitely including a student arts & crafts fundraiser for Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund on November 10th. For information on how to get involved and educational resources, visit SJP’s Instagram, @ClaremontSJP.