Last Month at Columbia

The architecture of Columbia University enhances spectacle, a fact that historically has been both useful and not for protestors. Since 1968, the campus has been bolstered with riot-proof architecture: large gathering space is limited to the center of the campus, which makes visual performance, and the suppression of it, easy. The peculiar American fetish for the Ivy League turns this campus into a tourist attraction in the summer months, when it is impossible to avoid large groups of visitors posing for selfies. The day before CUAD began their sit-in, the lawns were filled with Spikeball trampolines and buff boys playing with the wicked sense that the world was watching their enjoyment. Since then, wide-lens cameras positioned between the metal gates on 116th have turned the semi-privacy of college life into a live-action broadcast.

The Gaza Solidarity Encampment and after

Photograph via Flickr.

One hundred and seventy-three days after the Israeli military invaded Gaza, student protestors at Columbia University erected dozens of tents on the East Lawn. For months, we had watched as the IDF  demanded that Palestinians move en masse to southern Gaza, only to later expel them from Khan Younis and now, again, ask the thrice displaced to leave Rafah. Organizing as part of Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), students made a list of demands and committed to occupying the lawns until the university conceded. While the protestors’ tactics did not appeal to all, their demands were democratic: Barnard and Columbia student senates voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion to divest.

As a graduate student, I reported on the Columbia encampments over the course of two weeks. During that time, across two separate NYPD mass arrests, Columbia’s administration detained two hundred and twenty of its students, suspended countless more without due process, and brutalized many. The spectacle of militarized violence on Columbia’s campus has drawn aggressive media coverage. To watch the popular news cannibalize young people and refuse the ethical seriousness of the protest is devastating. For the university, this has been a pyrrhic victory: commencement is canceled, the Presidents of Barnard and Columbia face votes of no confidence from their own faculty, hundreds of faculty and staff across the university have begun a general strike refusing administrative work, and billionaire donors have publicly voiced their discontent.

Encampments have now sprung up on dozens of other campuses, with student groups around the country echoing the demand for cultural institutions and universities to divest from Israeli apartheid. As the crisis in Gaza has proven, for many, to be impossible to look at directly, they look instead at America’s best, brightest and whitest, precipitating a domestic crisis in higher education. Of course, higher education has been in permanent crisis for the past fifty years. In this moment, to live and work as a student is to disavow the idealism of the university from the get-go. Did I wake up one day to find that the university had become a muscular arm of the state, or was it always one?

—D. G.

April 17 and April 18

NYPD presence has loomed over Columbia’s campus since October 7. Low-flying helicopters soundtracked a long Fall semester, breaching the quiet of the seminar room and the lecture hall. The winter months brought less sunlight and fewer cop cars outside of Columbia’s gates on Broadway and 116th, but on April 17 there was an emboldened group of police outside campus. In the morning’s early hours, students organizing as part of Columbia University Apartheid Divestment (CUAD)—a coalition that dissolved in 2020, and was revived in response to the suspension, in November, of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace—set up camp on the manicured lawns outside Butler Library. Their encampment held a cluster of tarpaulin green tents, and two large signs facing College Walk, the main intersection of Columbia’s central campus. They read LIBERATED ZONE and GAZA SOLIDARITY ENCAMPMENT. CUAD was working their knowledge of a commodified history of campus activism from the left: the 1968 Columbia protests against expansion into Harlem and the Vietnam War; the 1985 divestment from South Africa blockade; the 2007 hunger strike for curriculum reform; and, among other protests, Emma Sulkowicz’s 2015 performance art project against the university’s failure to discipline her rapist. On CUAD’s Instagram, a picture of the Gaza Solidarity Encampment is juxtaposed against “Liberated Zones” from 1968.

CUAD’s demands were clear and organized. The protests called for institutional divestment from Israel—a list of twenty targeted companies was neatly jotted down in a spreadsheet—and for Columbia to close down its Tel Aviv Global Center as well as end the dual degree program with Tel Aviv University. CUAD also called for financial transparency in the process of divestment: Columbia’s endowment is infamously opaque, with investments held in alternative portfolios rather than public markets. At a faculty teach-in on Tuesday, April 18, Professor Mahmood Mamdani spoke to the protestors about their efforts. Mamdani teaches in the Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAS) department. A department sardonically called “Oriental Studies” by some, MESAS’s faculty have been racialized targets since 2005, when the historian Rashid Khalidi was barred from participating in the New York City Teachers Training program. Mamdani read from a bracing statement: “The anti-apartheid movement was born of an internal mobilization first and foremost and then an external transnational alliance. After Vietnam and the solidarity against the war in Vietnam, this is the next great transnational movement. The anti-apartheid struggle gave rise to a movement of transnational solidarity in South Africa and today around the world.  I congratulate you for being members of this rapidly growing movement.”

Around 1:20 that afternoon, president Minoushe Shafik requested the NYPD strategic response group to arrest more than a hundred students.  It was the first time in half a century the NYPD were called onto Columbia’s campus. In 1968, police officers did not bring guns; on April 18, they entered in full riot gear. “I got the text saying the cops were going to storm the lawn, and it was like a video game,” a graduate student colleague, who was walking to the encampment that Thursday afternoon, told me. “Choose A or B; get arrested or go home. And my cat was sick so I couldn’t get arrested that day.” Those in the encampment were forewarned that the police would enter the area. There was a silent vote: all present students unanimously chose to stay.

I arrived on campus around 2, by which point 108 students had been zip-tied and frogmarched off the Columbia lawn. I saw the jetsam of student belongings lying adrift on the lawn, picnic blankets and backpacks adorned with buttons, probably filled with books and laptops, being collected by Columbia staff who, I would later hear, discarded the seized property in a gated enclave between two student dormitories. I would also learn that all initially arrested students were charged with trespassing and suspended by the university, which allowed Public Safety—which is, to no one’s surprise, run by an ex-NYPD officer—to deactivate all suspended student ID cards. This would bar students from re-entering the site of their protest and attending classes. (Some professors, including Mamdani, would hold their classes off campus to accommodate suspended students.) Barnard students would be evicted from dormitory housing. Some graduate students would lose their funding.

The arrests felt like they unfolded along two distinct temporalities. For some, the day was the culmination of the slow and secretive organizing of CUAD against the university administration’s own methodical build-up of surveillance infrastructure, strengthened over the course of the COVID lockdown and its afterlife. (The pandemic had set a precedent for Columbia to wield its “Termination by the University” housing policy to evict undergraduates for COVID safety violations—now a recycled penalty against suspended protestors.) At the same time, the spectacle felt like a knee-jerk response to a crisis precipitated by the showmanship of rapid-fire Congressional hearings, the flash anger of students who watched their friends peacefully resist only to be hauled away in zip-ties, the overwhelmedness of social media, and the frenzy of the national press, who seemed to consistently ask all the wrong people all the wrong questions.

It took some time for the crowd to collate into another organized protest. The cops lingered, and broadcast media descended onto campus. A young white guy thrusted his business card in my hand. Did I want to talk off the record? His boss was a performance artist based in NYC. I imagined a woman doing pirouettes in a downtown gallery, approximating the nonviolent surrender of student activists. On campus, onlookers stood in staggered distances from the lawn, seemingly tiered according to their fear of getting arrested. ID cards were checked at all the open gates and to enter and exit buildings. I’m not sure how the performance artist’s assistant had slipped through, but a junior at Barnard told me that she had been swimming laps at Dodge—the Columbia gymnasium, whose construction was originally planned in Morningside Park but was ultimately moved after the demands from the Society of Afro-American Students in the 1968 protests—and overheard two white women saying, “I tried to show them my ID, I really did! But they didn’t want to see it and waved me in!”

Two new yellow tents materialized on the West Lawn, and over the course of the afternoon the scene turned into a meeting place for outraged students with keffiyehs, Palestinian flags, and freshly drawn signage. Student activists moved through the crowd and shared a phone number for legal assistance, anticipating more police action. A rotation of celebrity speakers whipped up a frenzy of student activity: a staid Cornel West, the writer Mohammed El-Kurd. When a woman, way too pretty to be a student, started dancing hypnotically, I heard audible gasps. Is that Indya Moore. Holy fuck, it is. Naturally, a handful of Zionist agitators arrived to make their displeasure known, hefting an enormous Israeli flag. Strained over a bullhorn, I heard the bullying sounds of the American national anthem over the chants of protestors.

The architecture of Columbia University enhances spectacle, a fact that historically has been both useful and not for protestors. Since 1968, the campus has been bolstered with riot-proof architecture: large gathering space is limited to the center of the campus, which makes visual performance, and the suppression of it, easy. The peculiar American fetish for the Ivy League turns this campus into a tourist attraction in the summer months, when it is impossible to avoid large groups of visitors posing for selfies. The day before CUAD began their sit-in, the lawns were filled with Spikeball trampolines and buff boys playing with the wicked sense that the world was watching their enjoyment. Since then, wide-lens cameras positioned between the metal gates on 116th have turned the semi-privacy of college life into a live-action broadcast.

An alumnus in an unwashed NYC Parks hoodie stood and watched the protest with a dopey smile. “I’m not online,” he said. “But I saw a picture of the Butler lawns on the cover of the New York Daily and I thought I would walk over.” He told me he was a member of the graduating class of 1968. “I still have two overdue library books and an incomplete,” he said before continuing on about the cyclicality of history and the importance of protest on this campus, stressing the “complexity” of Israel’s violence compared to the brute moral wrongness of Vietnam. And then, in the way old people can suddenly disappoint, he turned to me and asked, flirtatiously, “and you with the exotic features, where are you from?” I decided I was no longer interested in his theorizing.

On the steps of Low Library, my friend Wick and I met a girl in an oversized woolen coat who had left the protest to get a snack. “It’s so fucking stupid,” she told us, gesturing at the crowd. The stupidity in question was left ambiguous. Was the protest stupid? The NYPD presence? Zionism? Or the fact that one of the most organized and organizable factions of US public life—university students—are also its most consistently infantilized group?1

“I can’t wait to graduate,” she said. The half-built architecture of the commencement ceremony—metal barriers leading to a yet-to-be-constructed stage—surrounded us.

As I continued walking, I saw some students storm the lawns and others go home. On the third floor of a humanities building I found all the hallway lights off, and three tenured faculty members locked in a silent tête-à-tête; elsewhere, instructors with more to lose held office hours that no students showed up to. Outside Philosophy Hall, an Amazon employee stood with a package for a faculty member. “Why can’t people just get shit delivered to their homes?” he asked me, unable to enter the building. Meanwhile, it was surf-and-turf day at the dining halls, and a trickle of undergraduates, studiously ignoring the protest, walked out with plates piled high with boiled pink shrimp.

April 22

There was collective anticipation for the faculty rally on Monday. Many graduate students—faculty in training, with none of the job security—had already risked a great deal in support of the protesters. At the student worker walk-out, an hour earlier, I’d heard a sentiment that graduate students who chose arrest had done so because they couldn’t watch their students endanger themselves, confronting an administration that made us all less safe, while they did nothing. A young woman said into the bullhorn, “My mother was a take-out delivery driver and I don’t have a back-up plan.” Still, she chose to stand in the encampment.

Now faculty stood on the Low Library steps, some dressed in their graduation robes, projecting institutional authority, holding signs that read Hands Off Our Students and Restore Faculty Governance. In the plaza below, students strained to hear speeches that all seemed to revolve around abstractions like “academic freedom.” The faculty’s grievances largely came down to President Shafik’s hubristic amount of administrative overreaching in the statements she made to Congress about the hiring and firing of instructors. The last few months had made it apparent that the contemporary university is structured to inflict precarity on all, even its most senior faculty, but for many faculty it is the institution that is at stake; in the forty-minute walk-out, not once was the word “Palestine” spoken. One faculty speaker, especially out of touch with the affective tenor of the audience, tried to explain the etymology of the word “learning.” At the end of the faculty presentation, the crowd unanimously started chanting the words the faculty refused to speak: “Disclose, Divest. We Will Not Stop. We Will Not Rest” and “Free Free Palestine.” Afterward, a suspended student occupied the now vacant Low steps and shouted at the cameras, “You cannot suspend me. I suspend myself until we get disclosure and divestment.”

In the distance, in front of the faculty walk-out, the Gaza Encampment had been reconstructed, more populated than before. The epithets used to describe the protestors (“the mob” was a Fox News favorite; President Shafik preferred “rancor[ous]”) are transparently racist and classist, and looking at the haphazardly erected tarpaulin, cardboard, and blankets that now made up Columbia’s West Lawn, I was struck by its visual resonance with homeless architecture. In urban America, those who sleep in tents become deplorable and disposable. The ongoing displacement of Palestinians has created permanent refugee camps in the occupied territories and surrounding states; in Dheisheh, one of the oldest and more permanent refugee camps in the West Bank, public services, like electricity, water and infrastructure, have been constructed on an ad-hoc basis. The camp wasn’t supposed to exist forever. The Columbia encampment was constructed from cheap, contraband materials smuggled through the single open gate, and under the watchful eye of private security firms now hired to supplement Public Safety. Its ugliness might be the point.

I tried to go home, as President Shafik directed, but the 116th Street subway station was partially closed off. Aboveground, I watched an NYPD officer desultorily scuff her feet against the tarmac and say to her partner, “I hate having to stand around to do nothing.” She was wearing a visor, and her body was wrapped in bulletproof Kevlar. On her waist was a baton and a holstered pistol.

April 23

The equation changed dramatically on the morning of April 23, when the long, sticky fingers of the federal government threatened to intervene. (In class, when asking about the loud clip of a helicopter, I was told the Governor Kathy Hochul made a trip to campus.) The phantasmagoria of federal power was written in between the lines of the letters that Representatives Elise Stefanik and Virginia Foxx separately sent to Minoushe Shafik. Foxx’s letter claimed that there was enough evidence to constitute “a major breach of the University’s Title VI obligations, upon which federal financial assistance is contingent, and which must immediately be rectified.” It was difficult to discern if this claim had teeth, but its invocation brought forth other monsters under the bed: the fear that Columbia would lose federal funding, as well as the violence of bringing in the National Guard, an unsubstantiated threat the administration took pains to refute. These bogeymen made it clear to protestors that the next time NYPD entered campus, it would be at the invitation of the government, not university administration. Overnight, some faculty decided to stick with the devil they knew, revoking calls to fire Shafik. On a Zoom call, an organizer frustrated with the political sideshows said, “Radical politics shouldn’t play the optics game. Leave that to the liberals.” No one could collectively agree on a response.

I rewatched Shafik’s testimony in Congress and found myself caught on one moment in particular. Representative Lisa McClain reads from a sheet of paper to ask if the words “long live the intifada” are antisemitic, but she is unable to pronounce in-ti-fa-da, a phonetically straightforward transliteration from Arabic. The words of the Other literally catch in McClain’s mouth, and she says, instead, “in-tin-fada.” Then she does it again.

April 24

On April 24, the weather was unconscionably good, and I took a walk in the light summer rain. The night before, the US senate had approved a $13 billion aid package to Israel. A block from my apartment, a long line of young white couples waited for admission to a new BYOB pop-up restaurant. Peaceful protests for Palestine at the University of Texas–Austin, the University of Southern California, Yale, New York University, Cal Poly Humboldt, and the University of Minnesota had been violently repressed in the last few days. Hundreds of students had been arrested in a calculated collusion between federal and administrative power. I saw people hanging out on the sidewalk, laughing and drinking from sweating six-packs, while on my phone, US House Speaker Mike Johnson made an inflammatory attack on the Columbia encampment, metonymically linking 9/11, “ayatollahs in Iran,” and those who oppose Israel in a bizarre linguistic chain. “Stop the genocide,” yelled one protester over Johnson, their voice loud and crisp.

I was welcomed into the new CUAD encampment by a polite white undergraduate wearing a bright-green safety vest. A woven textile hung outside the West Lawn, displaying a beautiful hand-lettered list of demands. To the immediate right of the lawn’s entrance, a whiteboard displayed rules for the encampment. Did I understand that Columbia’s campus is on the dispossessed lands of the Lenni-Lenape and Wappinger people—yes, I did. That Columbia was implicated in the continuing dispossession of the Harlem community—yes, that is true too. I consented not to drink, smoke, or take photographs of any protestors without their explicit approval. Inside, I found a pastiche of college life borrowed and revitalized from an earlier generation’s imaginary. Here, separate from CUAD’s tangible political demands, was a new (old?) way of being for young people within and apart from the neoliberal university. I saw students push self-styled radical faculty to hold classes on the lawn; speak articulately about the legacy of Edward Said in their institution; and make clear political arguments about the transnational nature of global capital, which linked the violence of the Israeli Defense Forces to the new technology used to police students and keep them off campus.

April 26

Last summer, five months before the Israeli invasion of Gaza, I was living in Amman, Jordan. Amman is a concrete metropolis demographically dominated by Palestinians in exile, residing in an artificial state produced from the broken promises of World War II. I would walk from my home in Jabal al-Weibdeh though the Al Kalha stairs, a spruced public pathway with coffee houses and stores for tourists, to work in Jabal Amman. I would pass a shop on my walk that was owned by a Palestinian refugee. The owner was able to live but not work in Jordan, existing in a legal purgatory and between the cracks of civil society—a reminder of the collusion of Arab states in keeping Palestine unfree. His shop sold knick-knacks and trinkets commemorating historic Palestine. He made his living by packing and selling the Palestinian revolution to those abroad.

In the US it can feel like, by the time revolutions reach us, they’re hopelessly commodified, reduced to flags, T-shirts, and slogans. But the student movement is committed to an embodied revolution, one which implicates them as well. When students say that “Palestine will free us all,” Palestinian liberation is transformed from a benevolent, paternal activism into a demand that we have stakes in. For many, supporting the encampments has come to stand in for rage at the depoliticization of academia, at the surveillance of student life, at the managerial conquest of the university, and at the impossible, deadening sense that people with moral conviction can wake up every day and witness something horrific—but be unable to do anything about it. These disgruntlements have coalesced in the sentiment “Palestine is the vanguard for our collective liberation,” which universalizes the particular. This is what revolutions do. For activists in the US, within the political imperative for Palestinian liberation, there is also a broader demand to disrupt the systems which produced the ethnonationalist state of Israel: capitalism, racism, everlasting imperialism; surveillance and state violence and incarceration; state monopolies on violence; restrictions on freedom of movement; the real antisemitism of evangelical Zionism. On campus, we are not building a single-issue movement.

Outside Butler Library, I saw a classmate sitting by the sundial. We don’t know each other well. In class, I’d found him thoughtful and soft-spoken. I liked the small tattoos on the inside of his wrist. I asked him if he had submitted his master’s thesis, as it was two days past the deadline for MA students hoping to graduate in May. He told me he was planning to take an extra semester. “I’ll take classes and enjoy this university when it’s calmer,” he said. Behind him, hundreds of small Israeli flags poke up from the small patches of unoccupied grass left on College Walk. Dozens of graduate students, independent workers for Palestine, walk in picket formation. The encampment was still standing. I asked him what made him think the protests would go away. He told me we were at the cusp of graduation, and the ceremonial ending would bring a pause. It had to.

What is this fantasy of an ending? I am susceptible to it too. All kinds of milestones rest on the promise of a deferred future: graduation, employment, the plans to one day rebuild Gaza. But for the protestors there is only the expansive, claustrophobic present: the present of the invasion of Rafah, the present student uprising, and the present repression of a sweeping, revolutionary moment.

April 29

The university unilaterally decided to terminate negotiations. Then again, what is a negotiation with an institution that threatens to suspend, evict, and imprison its partners in dialogue? Protestors in the encampment received a letter:

It is important for you to know that the university has already identified many students in the encampment. If you do not identify yourself upon leaving and sign the form now, you will not be eligible to sign and complete the semester in good standing.

Students who’d read their Foucault recognized the demand to self-surveil on the basis that the university is an all-knowing entity. But when unaffiliated brown students, one reportedly not in New York City at the time, received emails informing them of their suspension, the ruse of the panopticon was revealed as little more than brute racial profiling. Online, I saw pictures of the university’s threats scrawled over in red ink by protestors, who wrote: Suspension for Gaza is the highest honor.

In the afternoon, the encampment voted to remain on the lawn.

April 30

Around midnight, a faction of CUAD split off and occupied Hamilton Hall, a central campus building that houses administrative offices and humanities. Occupiers locked its entrances with zip-ties and bike locks and pushed tables and vending machines against doorways. They renamed the building Hind’s Hall, after a 6-year-old, Hind Rajab, killed in a vehicle in Gaza City. The paramedics who attempted her rescue were also killed, in an Israeli airstrike. A ghostly audio recording of Hind pleading for emergency assistance in a car with already dead family members is a reminder of the 13,000 other children also killed in Gaza.

There is a playbook for occupying Hamilton Hall, rehearsed and handed down from Columbia protestors across generations. Protestors did it in 1968, 1972, 1985, 1992, and 1996. Never before had Columbia administration called the NYPD Strategic Response Group and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) on its students.

Occupying property, of course, is one way to rattle the administrative machine. After the Hind’s Hall occupation began, no one could enter campus except “essential personnel” and students, most of them freshmen, who live in the central quad. Libraries, medical centers, and most dining halls were shut down. Columbia created an artificial state of emergency to isolate protestors and cut them off from the community that supported them.

For reasons unrelated to the protests, I had to give my biometric data to the federal government earlier in the afternoon. In a warehouse in deep Brooklyn, I queued up with dozens of others at my allotted time. Peeking at their passports and guessing by the colors of the cover, I was among Haitians, Ukrainians, and at least one Ghanaian. The employees spoke to us in barked imperatives. After pressing my fingers gently on the dirty plastic screen, a federal officer handed me a folded sheet of paper and directed me to fill it out before depositing it at the exit. When I opened the paper, I found a feedback survey: How would you rate your experience today? This was written next to three corresponding faces, one smiling, the other flat and the third sad.

I would rate my experience with the federal government very fucking badly. At 7 PM, the NYPD began cordoning off uptown Manhattan with large metal barriers. Protestors hung a sign off the balcony of Hind: While you read, Gaza Bleeds. A twenty-block radius of Manhattan was designated a “frozen zone,” a term the NYPD uses to arbitrarily suspend movement. Cops swarmed campus. On WKCR, the tireless student radio station, a reporter apologized if it seemed like he was exaggerating, but he assured us he was not, and gasped that he couldn’t see the pavement because of the number of cops in riot gear.

The mob of NYPD officers confronted students at the 116th and Amsterdam gates. For the most part these students arrived to protect their protesting classmates, and were not previously affiliated with the encampment, but that didn’t protect them from arrest. Shattering glass at the M11 bus stop, an armored SWAT truck with a strange appendage barreled into Morningside Heights. The military-grade vehicle, a quarter-million-dollar toy, began unloading NYPD officers in tan khakis and black shirts though a ladder extension onto the second floor of Hind’s Hall. Officers threw a device on the first floor of Hind, a flash-bang, which imitated the sensory effects of a grenade. More property was damaged in ten minutes of police action than in the two weeks since CUAD began their protest. Officers entered the building with guns drawn. When unlocking a door and transferring his gun from his right to left hand, an unnamed officer discharged his weapon. The bullet lodged into a wall.

There is video footage of the NYPD throwing zip-tied protestors, already immobile, down granite stairs. Prior to the police escalation, students organized neutral medics on the scene with eye drops to treat pepper spray. The police pushed these affiliates away and randomly arrested onlookers. Student press was also shoved aside. A chain of protestors in brace formation become one another’s only assurance. Those in the encampment and Hind’s Hall repeated the refrain, we keep us safe. The rest of the campus community watched from buildings, brownstones, and listened over the airwaves on WKCR.

After the raid at Columbia, the same NYPD platoon sped uptown to CUNY to arrest hundreds of students in their own encampment. CUNY administration had promised their protests a 6 AM deadline on May 1, the following day, a promise which was ignored. At CUNY, the cops broke teeth and smashed faces, completing their night with close to three hundred students bound in correctional buses.

May 1

How do we wake up after a day of carnage? How do we mourn? Collectively. Some, I know, woke up early, headed to One Police Plaza, and lingered for hours for student protestors to be released, with water, food, and phone chargers on hand. Others woke up with rage that can only expel itself with more pickets, more protests. I didn’t sleep and walked quiet residential streets. I wondered if these weeks of fatigue would come to mean anything. The demands of divestment are still within the realm of possibility for the managerial paper-pushers in the university. Still, this won’t end the bombings in Gaza; it won’t dismantle the apartheid system. Divestment is a partial proxy for ceasefire, itself a partial proxy for a free and autonomous state in the Middle East. It is the space between these demands, each link professing a leap in the imagination of the possible, that activism works within.

At One Police Plaza, I arrived at the wrong destination for jail support. Lost in the maze of government buildings, cowered by brutalist architecture, I met an undergraduate at Hunter, also adrift. I called a friend; they texted theirs. We found our way to a group of fifty students with tables set up, offering snacks, a rice dish and water on the hot and humid day. I met friends I hadn’t seen in six months, a year, since my undergraduate days. We silently hugged, clasped hands. Displaced from our universities we met each other again in the carceral shadow of the state.

  1. “Go back to class and stop the nonsense,” Speaker of the House Mike Johnson later told students in the encampment. “Stop wasting your parents’ money,” said Congressman Mike Lawler. 

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