Hundreds defend pro-Palestine sit-in in White Plaza protest

Feb. 9, 2024, 2:18 a.m.

Around 500 people demonstrated in solidarity with the pro-Palestine Sit-In to Stop Genocide Thursday night, after the University’s Office of Student Engagement (OSE) issued a mandate restricting overnight demonstrations in White Plaza. 

The Blue and White Tent and the Sit-In to Stop Islamophobia disassembled their respective signs and tents, while Sit-In to Stop Genocide remains standing. 

The policy requires demonstrations to cease overnight components “based on concerns for the physical safety of [the] community,” according to a letter delivered to demonstration leaders by Director of Operations and Student Unions Jeanette Smith-Laws. Demonstrations were ordered to vacate White Plaza from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every night, effective the same day.

Annabelle Davis ’24, an organizer with the sit-in and Stanford Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), criticized the quick turnaround. “This is just an incredibly bad faith moment on the part of the University to throw this at us with such weak justification, with so little time for discussion,” Davis said. 

The University mandated that “any tents, tables, chairs or other similar items” must be removed from White Plaza or else will be removed by the University “for health and safety reasons.”

Policy violations may be referred to the Office of Community Standards (OCS) and students could be cited with trespassing “for failing to comply with a university directive,” the University wrote in the letter.

Despite the mandate, the sit-in expressed commitment to stay in White Plaza overnight until the University met their demands, including endorsing a ceasefire in Gaza and committing to the boycott, divest and sanction movement.

“The Sit-In to Stop Genocide has been standing continuously in White Plaza — continuously occupied by students for 112 days — through winter break, through Christmas, through New Year’s, through that freak storm that we had” Davis said.

The group called for emergency mobilization Thursday afternoon via social media and email. Other student groups, including the Black Student Union, Students for Justice in Palestine, Fossil Free Stanford and more circulated the email. 

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and other community members assembled in White Plaza around 6:30 p.m. to protect the sit-in from removal at 8 p.m.

Three students stand with intertwined arms to demonstrate with the pro-Palestine sit-in.
Students linking arms encircled the sit-in to demonstrate against its removal. (Photo: CAYDEN GU/The Stanford Daily)

The group grew to about 500 people, chanting and singing protest songs. After a brief rally, the group split up. Some linked arms and surrounded the sit-in, while others remained in adjacent areas in White Plaza.

Community members are showing “support for the physical sit-in and the students who are a part of it, but also for our demands for Palestine, for the people who are being slaughtered in Gaza right now,” Davis said. “Our hope is that the University will see that there’s widespread support and they will rescind that demand.”

Sleeping bags surround the sit-in tents.
Dozens of sleeping bags filled the area behind the sit-in as students stayed overnight to prevent its removal. (Photo: JULIA HERNANDEZ/The Stanford Daily)

According to organizers, this is not the University’s first effort to stop the sit-in. 

Rehman Hassan ’27, a participant of the sit-in for the last three months said, “There’s a couple of people who work for OSE who have been trying to shut us down quite extensively.”

The Daily has reached out to the University and the Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) for comment.

A sit-in that assembled this week in a place previously taken by a pro-Israel tent, the Sit-in to Stop Islamophobia, previously wrote in a statement to The Daily that they would only cease the overnight component of their demonstration if the Blue and White Tent did so as well. Both demonstrations disassembled before 8 p.m. Saturday.

Hamza El Boudali ’22 M.S. ’24, an organizer with the Sit-in to Stop Islamophobia, said they intend to return from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow, in compliance with University rules. He said they would do so especially if the Blue and White Tent also returns, to provide a counterpoint “wherever they are spreading Islamophobia and what we believe to be hateful rhetoric.”

The Sit-In to Stop Islamophobia is unaffiliated with the other sit-in and advocates for the University to provide more resources and support for Muslim students, divest from governments “committing or at risk of committing genocide against Muslims” and reinstate suspended COLLEGE lecturer Ameer Loggins, according to organizers. They also criticized media who they accused of reproducing Islamophobia, including The Daily’s opinions section.

The Blue and White Tent also intends to continue its presence on campus, which never involved an overnight component.

“We got this order that everyone has to clear out by 8 p.m. and we’re perfectly happy to comply. Some people are not,” said Blue and White Tent participant Aaron Schimmel Ph.D. ’24. 

Schimmel criticized the sit-in’s refusal to acquiesce to University policies: “I find it a shame that the sit-in is biting the hand that feeds them.”

The Daily has reached out to organizers with the pro-Israel tent for comment.

The corner of White Plaza with the blue and white tent next to another tent.
The Blue and White Tent organizers reassembled a tent and signs that were blown earlier this week. A new sit-in was assembled next to the tent. (Photo: CAYDEN GU/The Stanford Daily)

Many community members unaffiliated with any campus organization also attended Thursday to support the sit-in. The “Raging Grannies,” a local activist group, protested in solidarity with the sit-in. They learned about the demonstration from social media, and wore pins from various progressive causes.

“Grannies are old enough to have the perspective of history,” said Ruth Robertson. “We became Raging Grannies in the Bay Area about 22 years ago. The name attracts people, and it describes us.”

“You don’t have to be a biological grandmother, you don’t even have to be a grandmother, you don’t even have to be a woman — you  have to rage,” Robertson said.

Hundreds defend pro-Palestine sit-in in White Plaza protest
Despite University orders to vacate by 8 p.m., the Sit-In to Stop Genocide continues into its 112th night. (Photo: CAYDEN GU/The Stanford Daily)

As of 2 a.m., the sit-in remained in place, and over a hundred people prepared to stay the night, with sleeping bags scattered around White Plaza. Videos shared with The Daily showed participants celebrating in a dance circle.

Dilan Gohill ’27 is a news staff writer. He is from Santa Monica, CA and enjoys avocado toast and listening to Lorde. Contact him at dilan 'at' stanforddaily.comGreta Reich '26 is the vol. 265 co-Magazine editor, University desk editor for News, staff writer and copy editor for The Daily. She is studying Political Science and Communication and can almost always be found at CoHo. Contact her at greich 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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