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Hunger strike day five: PSC rally, peace procession with puppets, strike ongoing

Student protestors entered the fifth day of their hunger strike on Tuesday, with both the protestors and the University’s administration unflinching in their stances on divestment.

What happened Tuesday?

The Palestine Solidarity Caucus hosted a rally on the Main Green in support of the hunger strike. About 150 students attended the event, which featured speeches from the current strikers, as well as Jackie Goldman ScM’19, an organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace.

This rally succeeded one hosted just 24 hours before during which protestors delivered a “critical edition” of the 2020 Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies report that recommended endowment divestment “from companies that facilitate the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory” to the office of President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20.


At the Tuesday rally, Sherena Razek GS claimed that the protestors have received no response from the University following the delivery of their critical edition report. Paxson has received the document, Senior Vice President for Communications Cass Cliatt confirmed in an email to The Herald.

Razek also criticized a new website announced via a Monday email from Paxson.

The website, entitled “Strengthening Our Community Amid Conflict,” shares details of University initiatives to address “racism, discrimination and harassment,” as well as campus safety and freedom of expression.

Razek also announced on Tuesday that the Graduate Labor Organization has adopted divestment as their “spring campaign.”

That evening, student activists affiliated with the strike hosted a “peace procession with puppets” on the Main Green featuring a large white bird puppet and figures representing the sun and moon. Songs of worship and prayer from attendees overlaid the performance.

Before the show, 6,000 white flags were placed on cardboard sheets in front of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center. According to strike spokesperson Sam Stewart ’24, each of the flags represent five Palestinians who have been killed in Israel’s retaliation for Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack. 

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, over 27,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in Israel’s response to Hamas’s attack that killed over 1,200 Israelis and took an additional 250 hostage, the Associated Press reported.

Other events during the day included Indigenous beadwork, a reading of Palestinian children’s literature and a Quran reading. 


The demands


The 19 student protestors are still refusing food until the Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — “hears and considers a divestment proposal” during its meetings that begin Thursday. The proposal, the strikers say, should be consistent with the 2020 ACCRIP report.

Paxson previously refused to bring ACCRIP’s recommendations to the Corporation for consideration, saying that the report “did not meet established standards” for divestment. On Friday, she maintained this position and refused to revisit her decision. She also denied the protestors’ request for a Corporation divestment resolution.

Instead, she encouraged the protestors to submit a divestment proposal to the Advisory Committee on University Resource Management — the successor to ACCRIP — instead of demanding a Corporation resolution.

The protestors have refused this referral to ACURM, saying that the length of time required to consider this proposal in the committee is “an untenable timeline given the urgency of the crisis in Gaza,” according to a statement from strike organizers to The Herald. 

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Past demonstrators, including the 41 students who were arrested during a December sit-in on trespassing charges, were previously referred to ACURM when they demanded divestment from “Israeli military occupation.” 

What investments does the University hold?

At a November public meeting, representatives from the University’s Investment Office told attendees that Brown’s direct investments do not include weapons manufacturing or those with direct ties to Israel.

In a Sunday email, University Spokesperson Brian Clark echoed this statement writing that Brown is “not directly invested in any defense stocks or large munitions manufacturers.”

A large portion of the University’s endowment is invested in external managers with portfolios that are undisclosed under contractual confidentiality provisions.

The University has only passed two full, official divestment resolutions in the past, The Herald previously reported.

At the November meeting, the Investment Office said none of these portfolios focus on weapons manufacturing and they select “managers whose values are aligned with the Brown community.”

Clark also wrote on Sunday that the University is “confident that our external managers have the highest level of ethics and share the values of the Brown community, including the rejection of violence.”

What health safeguards do the strikers have in place?

As the strike continues, worries for the health of the strikers have grown.

According to Stewart, “there are thorough contingency plans in place in case of an emergency.” Stewart added that the group is “monitoring vitals regularly to ensure we are up to date on striker health.”

The protestors were also cleared to participate in the strike by individual consultation with physicians prior to the demonstration, The Herald previously reported.

On Friday in a letter to the protestors, Paxson encouraged the students to “safeguard (their) health and well-being,” while exercising their “right to protest.” She also highlighted University mental health and well-being resources. 

She added that “protest is also unacceptable if it creates a substantial threat to personal safety of any member of the community.”

The University previously disenrolled four students participating in a hunger strike protesting the University’s partial divestment policy of South African apartheid in the 1980s. The then-administration cited health and liability concerns for the disenrollment, according to a 1986 article by The Herald.

What comes next?

As the Corporation meetings approach on Thursday, the activists have only begun to ramp up their programming.

GLO is planning to host a rally on the Main Green tomorrow in support of the strikers, according to Instagram promotions.

Owen Dahlkamp

Owen Dahlkamp is a Section Editor overseeing coverage for University News and Science & Research. Hailing from San Diego, CA, he is concentrating in political science and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in data analytics. In his free time, you can find him making spreadsheets at Dave’s Coffee.

Samantha Chambers

Samantha is a University News editor who oversees the Affinity & Activism beat. She is a sophomore from Tampa, Florida concentrating in Sociology. In her free time, Samantha likes to cook and watch Survivor.

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