Trinity Students Establish Encampment, Demand Divestment on Main Quad

10 min read

By Savannah Brooks ’26

Managing Editor

Wednesday, May 1, 8:45 p.m.

On Wednesday, May 1, at 7 p.m., over 100 Trinity students gathered on the Gates Quad to advocate for Trinity’s divestment from and condemnation of Israel. Organized by Trinity’s chapter of Students & Faculty for Justice in Palestine, the protest follows a plethora of protests and encampments erupting at colleges all over the country

The protest proceeded onto the Main Quad and repeated multiple chants in favor of Palestine’s liberation (“JBS open your eyes, please divest from Israel’s crimes!”). At 8 p.m., students, donning face masks and keffiyehs, began building an encampment in their “Liberated Zone,” a space that is “anti-apartheid,” “anti-imperialism” and “anti-war.” In a banner laid next to the encampment, the students laid out a list of demands: that Trinity divests from companies “investing in and profiting from the occupation of Palestine and genocide of Palestinians,” provide “full protection of students’ rights to free speech and protest,” publicly denounce the genocide in Palestine and be fully transparent regarding Trinity’s endowment, funds and investment.

The “Liberated Zone” banner strewn across a tent. Photo courtesy of Savannah Brooks ’26.

While the “Liberated Zone”  was built, other students began chalking the Long Walk. From above, Jarvis Hall residents yelled for the protestors to “stop vandalizing the sidewalks.” The chalk messages included calls to “divest and disclose,” as well as drawings of Palestinian flags. Faculty members and students brought pizza for the camping students around this time. Notably, three campus safety officers and Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management Joe DiChristina stood on the Long Walk watching the encampment. 

As the encampment has been established, a group of students unaffiliated with the encampment has grown closer to the Fuller Arch. Verbal insults, expletives and loud music have been hurled from both this group of students and residents of Jarvis. One student, from his Jarvis window, yelled “F*** you guys… F*** Palestine!” Students in the encampment only laughed. 

Wednesday, May 1, 10 p.m.

Artwork displayed at the encampment. Photo courtesy of Savannah Brooks ’26.

In an interview with the Tripod, Mica Song ‘26, a protester, said that “Nothing is being done. We are tired. We want collective liberation.” Song mentioned that “It feels really, really good to do something about [the administration’s lack of response].” 

This protest is the third major demonstration of the year to advocate for divestment from and condemnation of Israel, with the first happening at last fall’s Light the Long Walk event and the second being held shortly after fall break in response to a Palestinian Trinity student being shot in Vermont

Song, who is Jewish, says that they “understand that Jews who are Zionist are Zionist because they are scared. I’m scared. It’s scary to be Jewish every day. But, I don’t understand how we as Jews can view another genocide happening and still think that we are the victim. We have a responsibility as survivors of genocide to call out genocide when it happens.”

Thursday, May 2, 8:45 a.m.

Over 20 students slept overnight in the encampment. According to reports from within the encampment, several members of the administration expressed support. Numerous male students attempted to disrupt the then-sleeping students around 3 a.m. by playing loud music via a speaker that was later confiscated by campus safety officers. The students also reportedly yelled expletives and insults such as “You guys are such f***ing losers.” 

On the anonymous social media app Yik Yak, numerous students have used racial epithets to insult the students in the encampment, calling them “towel heads” and telling them to leave so they could study for finals. Supportive students have also responded on the app, asking their peers to consider their humanity and the people dying in Palestine.

Thursday, May 2, 5:25 p.m.

The encampment has continued to hold strong with no opposition from campus safety or the administration. On Thursday, the students in the encampment announced that they will be holding events to educate the community about their mission. At 2 p.m., a teach-in was held in conjunction with Trinity Divests, an informal student group that was founded last semester.

Trinity Hillel, which has been criticized by many pro-Palestinian students for its support of Israel, shared a statement on its Instagram today regarding the encampment. The post said that the encampments “are part of a pattern that is emerging on campuses around the country – some of which have led to threats and harassment toward Jewish students,” referring to antisemitic rhetoric reported by Jewish students at several universities that have led to the U.S. House of Representatives passing the Antisemitism Awareness Act on Wednesday. Hillel additionally noted “No student should feel as though they must hide their full identity to experience our campus environment, nor should their basic safety ever be jeopardized.”

The Trinity administration has not yet made any formal announcement regarding the staging of the encampments or their demands.

Friday, May 3, 11:21 p.m.

The encampment heads into its third night Friday as temperatures begin to drop. Today, students in the encampment held a full slate of events which they advertised on the SFJP Instagram. The students have encouraged other members of the Trinity community to “Stop by for food, activities, just to hang out, or to ask us any questions about what we’re doing and why.” 

On Friday, the “Liberated Zone” held several events. At 1 p.m., Assistant Professor of Economics Ibrahim Shikaki led a Jumu’ah prayer (the Muslim Friday midday prayer) with food provided by the Muslim Students Association. 

At 4:30 p.m., the protesting students began to rally, staging a demonstration outside of the Chapel and later outside of the Borges Admissions Center during the annual Honors Day ceremony and reception. According to reports from the protestors, multiple members of the administration requested that the chants be halted during the ceremony itself. These requests were ignored. 

At 7:30 p.m., members of the Hartford Jewish Organizing Collective joined students in the encampment for a Shabbat dinner (the traditional Jewish Friday night dinner). Around 10 faculty members joined this dinner to contribute to what became deeply emotional conversations regarding the Israel–Hamas War.

Saturday, May 4, 11:36 p.m.

By Savannah Brooks ‘26 and Cornelia Ehlebracht ‘25

Managing Editors

The “Liberated Zone” continued to hold events on its third full day. At 2 p.m., students in the encampment held a “know your rights training” to educate protesters about their rights as students and citizens. This included the reimagining of old folk songs to focus on Gaza by two graduate students from the University of Connecticut. At 4:30 p.m., the students held a “resistance henna” event, where members of the community could receive henna tattoos while talking with Trinity alumni about their time in Palestine. Rinom Chowdhury ‘20 discussed her experience being detained at the Israel/Palestine border in 2018. Many of the henna tattoos included symbols of resistance such as poppies. 

According to reports from students within the encampment, they have received much support from professors and have been very pleased with Campus Safety’s cooperation. With rainy skies forecasted for Sunday, the encampment has been forced to prepare for poor weather.

Sunday, May 5, 11:01 p.m.

Faced with rainy skies, the “Liberated Zone” held only one event on Sunday: a teach-in with Steve Thornton, a retired union organizer and Connecticut activist. The number of students sleeping over has dwindled, with about 10 spending the night into Sunday morning. A select number of protestors will meet with members of the Trinity administration on Monday to discuss their demands ahead of commencement, which is set to take place on May 19. This meeting was spurred by complaints following the protestors’ demonstration at the Honors Day ceremony.

Wednesday, May 8, 12:41 a.m.

On Tuesday, the “Liberated Zone” announced on their newly created Instagram account that they had met with select members of the College administration on Monday to discuss the possibility of disciplinary action as well as the encampment’s demands. On Tuesday, DiChristina told members of the encampment that President Joanne Berger-Sweeney has agreed to share the request to disclose whether Trinity holds investments in corporations “profiting from, or contributing to, the ongoing genocide in Palestine” with the Board of Trustees. There will be another meeting this week to discuss further action and the group’s other demands.

Members of the administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wednesday, May 8, 11:57 p.m.

On Wednesday, in an email to the Trinity College community, Berger-Sweeney discussed the encampment as well as the looming date of commencement. “We recognize that not everyone will feel comfortable as we push difficult boundaries in our learning together. Peaceful assembly—such as the current group of students in tents on campus—is an embodiment of that commitment,” she said in her email. “As a community, we also must adhere to particular policies, and assemblies and protests need to remain within the boundaries of the Social Code articulated in our Student Handbook. These shared values of free speech and respect for others are common ground for our community and set expectations for how we act and interact with one another, especially when we disagree.” 

Berger-Sweeney additionally provided updates on the College’s progress regarding the demands presented at the Dec. 7 protest in the fall. She shared that the College is in the process of “hiring an associate chaplain and director of Muslim life, affirming our direct divestment from fossil fuel, and adhering to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, which has been College policy since 2018.” Berger-Sweeney also announced that the fall 2024 semester’s “Bridging Divides” series will include a conversation about the pros and cons of divestment. 

At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, around 12 Trinity students marched from campus to the State Capitol to protest Israel’s assault on Rafah. Protesters held signs with slogans on them such as, “No Justice, No Peace,” “Bombing kids is not self defense,” “Ceasefire Now” and “Jews for Palestine.”

At 11:20 p.m., the “Liberated Zone” announced on their Instagram account that Board of Trustees Chair Lisa Bisaccia reported that the Board’s Investment Committee will give “serious consideration” to the protesters’ demands to divest from companies allied with Israel. The committee will discuss this demand at their next meeting, which is scheduled to occur this month. Following this news, the encampment has agreed to enter talks in regards to moving their physical location to allow the commencement ceremony to occur without incident.These progressions at Trinity have occurred while the conflict continues to gain attention throughout the United States, as President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he would “block the delivery of weapons that could be fired into densely populated areas of Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering.” Also on Wednesday, D.C. police cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University with pepper spray, arresting 33 people. On Tuesday evening, police in riot gear cleared the University of Massachusetts encampment and arrested over 130 people.

Thursday, May 9, 8:30 p.m.

On Thursday, the “Liberated Zone” announced on their Instagram that they will be hosting a decampment event on Friday at 11:59 p.m. after another meeting with the administration. The encampment will be removed from the Main Quad 9 days before commencement is scheduled to occur. Thursday additionally marks the last day of final examinations, meaning that all students without summer accommodations must move out of their spring housing by May 11. 

The protesters will provide a document with their demands to the administration to be discussed at the next Board of Trustees meeting. Additionally, they plan to erect an exhibit on campus commemorating the encampment. This exhibit will include a tent with a Palestinian flag and artwork created by protesters. The location for this exhibit has not been decided as of yet.

This article is no longer live. Any further updates will be reported on separately.

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11Comments

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  1. 1
    Samara Quintero

    Nice touch citing a Jewish person! Now there is no need to hear any perspectives from Jews who support the existence of a Jewish state (which is the overwhelming majority).

  2. 2
    David

    Dear Editor-in-Chief Silvey and Colleagues,
    As controversy rears a very public face once again on our beloved campus, striking at the physical heart of it, this will be a test of your journalism ideals and skills. Balance? Slant? How far? Which way? ‘The whole world’ isn’t watching, but the Trinity community is. Think hard about what you publish in the coming days – because it is going to be judged through many varying prisms. Tripod staff sees itself as “other” from “Camp Trin” (April 16, 2024 by “admin”) – hopefully the staff won’t also see itself as “other” from those not choosing to monopolize part of Trinity’s beautiful open space to advocate for a controversial political opinion. You’ve spoken with members of the “encampment”, don’t be afraid to engage as journalists with the rest of the campus. Good luck.

  3. 3
    Eric Viani

    Proud alumnus here. Great to see the students of Trinity politically engaged as our country aids & abeds genocide.

  4. 4
    Dr. K

    “The encampment has continued to hold strong!”

    “Trinity Hillel, which has been criticized by many pro-Palestinian students for its support of Israel!”

    “antisemitic rhetoric reported by Jewish students!”

    So, can we get a reporter to cover this instead of someone who is clearly invested? Look, I get Brooks is interested in community activism and human rights, but her bias is clearly showing. She is taking shots at Hillel while not saying anything about “pro-Palestinian activists, who have been criticized by students who support Israel and oppose Hamas.” She also clearly is throwing shade at the reports of antisemitism at other campuses.

    The Tripod needs to be more neutral.

  5. 5
    A Concerned Jewish Student

    I have to say I am incredibly disappointed with the Tripod’s coverage of Hillel’s statement. As someone who has worked with Hillel for my entire time at Trinity, one of the core values of Hillel is creating branches and collaborating with other multicultural organizations. After October 7th almost every organization broke their relationship with us within a week before Gaza was invaded. I understand the having differing opinions can be scary especially when students disagree with each other, but the ostracization of Hillel and its students (who hold immensely diverse views on Zionism, Israel, and their own Jewish identities) is counterproductive to on-campus dialogue and borders on anti-semitism. I applaud my fellow students who are exercising their first amendment rights, but ask that they have the courage to resist agitators outside of our community and remove hateful individuals from their movement. If peace is to ever be achieved it will be from the collaborative efforts of a diverse coalition that includes Zionists and Palestinians. Defaming Trinitys Jewish organizations can only fuel hate on our campus.

  6. 7
    Alumni Donor

    My hope is that the administration will agree to none of the protestors’ demands and instead allow a combination of summer vacation and apathy bring these protests to a natural end.

  7. 8
    Parent of a senior

    Once they disrupted the Honors Celebration and ignored the Administration’s requests the protestors should have been given the choices of stopping, being expelled or being arrested.

  8. 9
    Eric Stoykovich, College Archivist (Trinity College)

    “Fortunately, despite their critics, the colleges and universities of this country have greater freedom of expression than any other of our institutions. Violence and disruption do threaten that freedom, but stringent controls imposed from without or from within will not improve our ability to preserve the right of lawful dissent or our ability to assure academic excellence.” — President of Trinity College, Theodore “Ted” Lockwood, “Report of the President, 1969-1970” (https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1292&context=bulletin)

  9. 10
    Disappointed Alumnus

    Had the Tripod covered a Trump rally and selected a member of, “Blacks for Trump,” to provide cover for the rank bigotry on display, it would be rightly excoriated for doing so. Here, however, it went out of its way to select a self-described Jewish student who expressed views at odds with those held by overwhelming majority of Jews. Zionism, contra the assertion of the token quoted, is not an expression of fear or violence. It has been a core facet of Jewish identity and religious belief since the Babylonian exile.

    Trinity is already an uncomfortable place to be an openly Jewish student. The Tripod’s rank bias since October 7th has exacerbated that discomfort. The only comfort I take is that the Tripod is typically so poorly written and edited that no reader will take it seriously and no member of its editorial staff is likely to ever find meaningful work in journalism.

  10. 11
    James Schumaker

    It would seem that there is nothing new under the Sun.

    As a member of the Class of 1969, I saw many similar demonstrations during my time at Trinity — but if I may be allowed to editorialize, they concerned more serious issues that affected all of America in ways that still resonate today. It helps to keep some perspective on these matters, but I am glad to see that, as usual, Trinity’s demonstrations stopped short of violence.

    Here is an account of the Sixties demonstrations for those who might be interested. Any corrections or comments are gratefully accepted. https://shoeone.blogspot.com/1970/12/trinity-college-and-student-unrest-1964.html

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