Caltech Protests for Palestine

On Monday, April 29th, there were two on campus demonstrations for Palestine. The first took the form of a silent sit-in on the lawn of the Center for Student Services (CSS) building in the morning from 10:30 to 12:00. The sit-in was set to coincide with the “Deans and Donuts” event which was scheduled for 11:00am, however this event was canceled in an email to undergraduates at 10:15am with no explanation.

The protestors moved from the CSS lawn to outside the Red Door Cafe at around 11:20 am.

According to the undergraduate students who organized the silent sit-in, the main goal is to “start a meaningful conversation about Caltech’s affiliation with the military industrial complex and its reaching impacts in Gaza.” Protesters covered their mouths with tape “in solidarity with Palestinians being silenced.”

The protestors consisted of undergraduate and graduate students as well as a handful of caltech community members. At the peak of the protest there were around 60 people present. There was also a legal observer from the National Legal Guild present who was unable to talk to the press. The sit-in was organized in response to many similar protests on other college campuses and the lack of protests at Caltech.

“I saw the protests going around multiple campuses around our nation. [It] inspired me to bring this human rights issue to the front of Caltech students’ consciousness. No undergraduate had organized a demonstration so I decided to take action,” the undergraduate student organizers’ email continued.

A group of protesters sitting outside Red Door with tape over their mouths, holding signs reading “President Rosenbaum: Denounce Genocide,” “CeaseFire,” and more

April 29th sit-in outside Red Door. Photo credit: Ling-Yi Wu

A similar group of protesters sitting outside the Center of Student Services, holding signs reading “Deans: Denounce Genocide,” “Represent Our Voices: Denounce Genocide,” “Israel is an Apartheid State. Zionism doesn’t equal Judaism,” and more

Sit-in outside the CSS building. Photo credit: Julia Ehlert

The second protest took place in the evening organized by Pasadena for Palestine and other faith-based groups from local churches in conjunction with Caltech Students for Justice in Palesting (SJP). The demonstration was part of a larger series of sit-ins in front of congressman Judy Chu’s office that take place every monday organized by Pasadena for Palestine.

At 5:45pm, a group of around 20 Caltech students formed outside the Chen Neuroscience Building before joining the larger group of Pasadena residents already marching. The total group numbered around 100 according to eyewitness reports.

Protesters marched through the campus shouting slogans including “Your hands are bloody too”, “Caltech, Caltech, pick a side, justice for genocide”, “The students united will never be defeated”, and “The students united will never be divided.” A reporter for the Tech later caught up with the man leading the chants (who had been using a megaphone) and learned he was not Caltech affiliated. Some protesters held signs calling for Caltech to disclose any investments in or funding received by Israel. Protesters led an interfaith prayer for Palestine before dispersing at around 6:30pm.

Many protesters (a different group) standing outside Red Door, holding signs as part of the evening march

Protesters during the evening march. Credit: Ling-Yi Wu

Another picture of the evening march; some people are holding a large banner in the colors of the Palestinian flag, with the words “Pasadena 4 Palestine” written on it

Protesters during the evening march. Credit: Umran Koca

According to a representative of Caltech SJP, the main goal of the protest was to raise awareness of Caltech’s institutional complicity in Palestinian genocide. “It’s not for us to tell the students what to do. We’re just here to tell the students to rise up,” said a member of the protest from Pasadena for Palestine. The protester who had been leading the chanting also stated that they wanted to show Caltech students that they would be supported if they chose to engage in further pro-Palestine activities.

The Pasadena-based group, which is not affiliated with Caltech, said their choice of location to protest on Caltech campus was to encourage students to take action now in light of many other protests happening at other college campuses and was part of their collaboration with the Caltech SJP.

Caltech President Thomas Rosenbaum released a statement to the Caltech community on Tuesday, April 30th about these demonstrations. Rosenbaum stated that the protests were peaceful and did not disrupt campus operations. He went on to say that “these protests occurred in violation of Caltech’s Free Speech and Expression Policy because the Institute was not notified of the events in advance by an authorized campus organizer.” The campus free speech policy, which had been in place since 2003, was recently updated on April 26th. The letter warned that members of the Caltech community who proceed with these activities will be subject to campus disciplinary measures. In addition, members of the community external to Caltech engaging in these activities “may be subject to other actions including civil or criminal proceedings.”