University of Puerto Rico Students set up Palestinian Solidarity Camp

Carlos Berríos Polanco
Published in
May 7, 2024

A group of students from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras—this Monday—joined the international movement to occupy universities in solidarity with Palestine.

The Combative Student Collective is demanding the archipelago’s only public university system take an official stance against the genocide and occupation in Palestine. Additionally, they are calling for the university to end its relationship with the weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Honeywell, who have faced criticism because they create the weapons the Israeli army uses against Palestine, therefore benefitting from genocide.

The group finds it inconceivable that the UPRRP takes money from these three companies through donations, sponsored events, and fellowships, describes Palma, a group spokesperson who is using a pseudonym due to fear of disciplinary measures.

“We are seeing to it that our minds remain apart from the colonial, genocidal monster they [the university] has there [and] that they are imposing on us,” said Palma, a student who asked to use a pseudonym for fear of reprisals.

There has been a “close relationship” between Raytheon and the UPR in Mayagüez, particularly with the College of Engineering, since the 80s, according to a conference paper presented at the International Conference on Engineering Education in 1998, at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The duration of the encampment is subject to the support they receive: if it is not enough, they will limit themselves to protests in different places.

Student from the Palestine solidarity encampment at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras on Monday, May 6, 2024. Many prefer not to show their faces on camera due to  fear of disciplinary measures. (Photo: Carlos Berríos Polanco/9 Millones)

In the United States, student groups have occupied their universities to demand they divest from any investments in the arms industry and to pressure for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The first encampment of this type started near the end of March at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and they have only multiplied across the world since then.

Until now, there have been encampments in at least 90 campuses in over 15 countries, according to Al Jazeera.

Currently, Israel claims to be in control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing. Close to 1.3 million Palestinians are there—more than half of Gaza’s population—without an organized escape plan. Over 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and over 450 in the West Bank, according to The Guardian.

One of the tents erected at the Palestine solidarity encampment at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras on Monday, May 6, 2024. Many members of the encampment make the connection between the struggle for a free Puerto Rico with the struggle for a free Palestine, noting that many of the munitions tested on the island of Vieques are now dropped on Palestine. (Photo: Carlos Berríos Polanco/9 Millones)
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