At Campus Rally, Palestinian Students Look for Safety and Recognition

Karina Garcia addressing the crowd assembled outside of Hunter's West Building.
Vice-presidential candidate, Karina Garcia speaking about the effects of “U.S. imperialism” on the Middle East.
Photo by P.M. Campbell

On October 12, afternoon commuters exiting the 68th Street station were met with a police barricade, a crowd of officers, and a cameraman who refused to identify himself. As classes let out at 2:30 p.m., students began to line the windows of the Hunter sky bridges and anywhere they could catch a glimpse of what was developing outside. 

Organized by the Palestinian Solidarity Association, students held a demonstration urging CUNY to support Palestinian students. PSA emphasized that the goal of the protest was to “spread awareness of this genocide” and reminded attendees to not “engage with Zionists or police.” They also released a statement featuring a list of demands including “CUNY’s reevaluation” of the Chancellor’s and the protection of Palestinian students secured under Title VI.  

The university and its various colleges swiftly issued statements after the October 7 Hamas attack, condemning the violence and consoling students with ties to Israel while distancing themselves from protests on campus.

“We wholeheartedly reject the participation of organizations affiliated with CUNY in demonstrations that glorify Saturday’s violence and celebrate the killings, injuries, and capture of innocent people. We respect their right to free speech but condemn their support of these crimes against humanity,” wrote CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez in an email.

Hunter President Ann Kirschner echoed the message in her statement, which came hours after Hunter’s PSA held their rally outside of the West Building. The statements make no mention of the violence committed on behalf of the Israeli state. 

A senior student majoring in economics with a minor in Asian American studies, who wishes to remain anonymous because he fears “hate crimes,” called the comments by the chancellor a “complete disregard for Palestinian lives, very pro-Israel, pro-Apartheid.”

He says it upholds the 75 years of “colonialism and geopolitical disputes,” which he maintains the administration is disregarding.

Karina Garcia, the first guest speaker at the rally and vice-presidential candidate with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, differentiated “the interests of a few warmongers of the billionaire class” from those of average people. More than 100 student protesters joined her in chanting “Arriba Arriba Arriba Palestina,” as helicopter blades spun overhead.

Burhan Carroll, a Hunter College alum representing the Council on American Islamic Relations, followed Garcia and shamed CUNY’s treatment of those who support Palestine.  

Stating that the response was an “intentionally blind and one-sided narrative that frames self-defense, and resistance to apartheid and genocide as terrorism.”  

Speakers from the Pakistani Student Organization, Muslim Student Association, Asian Student Union, and the Internationalist Club had a throughline in each of their statements. They all commented on the context leading up to Hamas’s counterattacks on Israel, and the discomfort on campus caused by the president’s statements which ignored that context.

“The lack of supportive statements for Palestinian students that have been impacted by such actions in the past and now is why we’re here today protesting against them and against Israel,” a representative from the PSO said. 


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