At the 2024 Columbia Reunion, Palestinian students initiated a “Revolt for Rafah” encampment on West Butler Lawn, the third encampment in the past two months.

At around 7 pm on Friday, May 31, a group of autonomous Palestinian students supported by Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) established a new encampment on West Butler Lawn during the 2024 Columbia Reunion. The students reclaimed this space by displacing the tents previously erected by the university for event programming.

The South Lawns were previously the site of two encampments that the NYPD dismantled in April. 

The encampment, which inhabits around half of West Butler Lawn, made use of tables set up for the reunion by forming a small barrier around the occupied area. Pro-Palestine banners were hung on the tents, reading, “Revolt for Rafah,” “No donations ’til divestment,” “While you’re earning Rafah’s burning,” and “We’re back bitches,” among others. 

At around 8:30 pm, SJP posted a video of Public Safety officers removing tents from the Encampment. Photos taken by Bwog at around 8:40 pm shows Public Safety officers standing around the Encampment but not removing any more tents. At this time, around 30-40 individuals and six tents occupied the Encampment area. 

According to SJP,  the establishment of the third encampment comes in the wake of allegations that Columbia has been “colluding” with lobbyists representing “foreign governments.” SJP claimed these alliances have resulted in harsh measures against pro-Palestine protesters, alleging that the University has “act[ed] on behalf of foreign governments to brutalize, mass arrest, and siege our campus with the NYPD.” 

On May 16, The Washington Post reported on a WhatsApp chat of around 100 billionaires and business executives, some of which were reported to have met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams on April 26 regarding the Gaza Solidarity Encampment. According to The Post, chat members discussed how they could “pressure” President Shafik and the Board of Trustees to authorize the NYPD to dismantle the Encampment. The Post also attested that various chat members had attended private briefings with members of the Israeli government. A CUAD Instagram post stated that US law bars foreign entities from directly interfering with US political activity.

Update made on Monday, June 3 at 10:49 pm:

At around 10:30 pm on Sunday, June 2, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) announced via Instagram that the first Revolt for Rafah installation was complete, stating, “We will be back.” SJP wrote that the Encampment “successful[y] disrupt[ed]” the 2024 Columbia Reunion, declaring that “there will be no business as usual during a genocide.” SJP called on global students to “disrupt all aspects of university life” and asked alumni and trustees to “continue to agitate on all fronts of the university that contribute money to the war machine.” SJP ended their Instagram post by stating that more installations will be constructed throughout the summer.

Encampment via Bwog Staff