New Paltz Students Establish Encampment on Parker Quad

Student protestors made signs and banners within the "Liberated Zone" on Parker Quad. (Photo Courtesy of Noah Salata)

This is a developing story. The Oracle will be updating as information becomes available.

On Wednesday, May 1 at 1 p.m. students gathered on Parker Quad to set up an encampment, calling on SUNY New Paltz and the SUNY system to divest from contracts that they say support Israel.

As of about 2 p.m. approximately 70 people occupied the “Liberation Zone” that they set up. They roped off a perimeter around trees on Parker Quad to establish the encampment boundaries. 

Student-led protests for universities to divest from companies with ties to Israel began across the nation in the past weeks. Most notably, at Columbia University in New York City, which established an encampment on April 17 and lasted two weeks before being cleared by NYPD on April 30. 

“We’re here for a free Palestine. We are establishing an encampment in line with other universities such as Columbia University,” said Rae Ferrara, one of the student protestors in the encampment. “We are moving in line with a larger student movement to protest on our campuses and to press the university to divest from Israel.” 

Officers from the New Paltz University Police Department (UPD) were present as students began to rope off Parker Quad and pitch tents. After speaking with students at the start of the protest, they then left. 

Last week, a protest and teach-in organized by the Instagram account @newpaltzstudentsforpalestine started on campus on Old Main Quad. Students at the previous event called for the disclosure of finances and divestment from the multinational comapny Siemens. The campus administration asked that group to move to the designated public forum space, the Student Union Building Concourse. The group refused to move spaces, then left campus and continued their protest at Hasbrouck Park. The students who set up the encampment have the same demands.

At 2:15 p.m. President Darrell P. Wheeler arrived and spoke with the protestors. He explained that the tents the students have set up are against campus policy. The protestors then told Wheeler that they do not intend on deconstructing the encampment until their demands are met, intentionally violating campus policy.

SUNY New Paltz student Lucas Peterka read aloud the students’ four explicit written demands to Wheeler. The four demands the protestors say they want met before they disband the encampment are as follows:

First is “Disclose,” calling for SUNY New Paltz to disclose all of its donations, investments and contracts. All financial dealings with private companies are demanded to be made freely and publicly accessible via online search.

Second is “Divest,” demanding SUNY New Paltz to “sever contracts, withdraw investments and end all financial relationships with companies responsible for genocide in Palestine including immediate termination of Siemens contracts C991285 and OC42022.”

The third demand is “Disengage,” where SUNY New Paltz is called to adopt an “ongoing position of nonengagement” with all companies named by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Fourth and last is to “Drop the Charges.” Students demand that SUNY New Paltz drop all academic sanctions placed on students as a result of their participation in the encampment. In addition, students demand that the university must absolve all faculty members who have been put under investigation for speaking out about Palestine.

In addition to these demands, students expressed tangential concerns. Student protestors who chose to remain anonymous expressed the importance of nuance and education on the topic. “I want people to understand and look into Zionism more and what it actually means and for people to understand that Zionism has no obligation towards the Jewish people,” they stated. 

Executive Director of Communication and spokesperson for the university Andrew Bruso responded to the protest, acknowledging “today a small unsanctioned group, including some SUNY New Paltz students, set up tents and other temporary structures on campus grounds, in violation of policies that are clearly outlined in our Student Handbook. President Darrell P. Wheeler spoke to the demonstrators on site, listened to their concerns, and advised them that their actions – specifically the presence of the tents – constituted conduct violations.”

Bruso continued that Wheeler “expressed an intention to maintain an open dialogue and to promote a path of de-escalation. The University will not tolerate any hatred, bigotry, racism, intolerance, antisemitism, Islamophobia or violence on our campus and will take necessary actions to ensure a safe and successful conclusion to our academic year.”

In an email to all students, Wheeler reiterated that pitching tents, lean-tos, or any other temporary structures on campus for overnight occupancy directly violates university policy. 

“We are an institution that prioritizes the success of each and every one of our students, and that mission requires us to be transparent about how students can avoid consequences that interfere with their success here,” Wheeler said. “I have spoken directly with the demonstrators, advised them of our policy, and urged them to take down these temporary structures and follow our well-established guidelines for free speech on campus.”

Thursday, May 2: UPDATE

3:15m p.m.: Campus officials Michael Patterson and Kathleen Lieblich arrived at the encampment. They offered students the negotiation of full amnesty, meeting their fourth demand “Drop the Charges,” with the condition that the encampment be deconstructed by 7 p.m. 

“The university will agree to amnesty related to the encampment,” Patterson explained. When asked what would happen if the students did not deconstruct the encampment by 7 p.m., Patterson and Lieblich expressed they were unable to discuss that at the time. 

If the students were to meet the conditions Patterson and Lieblich put forth on behalf of the university, they expressed open communication pathways between the protestors and the administration. The offer made was for officials to meet with up to 10 explicitly named representatives from the student protestors to discuss the other three demands made. 

In an email from the Office of the President sent to all students, Wheeler said “As president of this institution, it is my charge to ensure that these conversations occur within a framework of mutual respect for our institutional policies, mission and values. The presence of tents on campus grounds defies that prerequisite of mutual respect and violates policies that I must uphold. The tents must be taken down before we can move forward.”

4 p.m.: Following the discussion with campus officials, student protests held a group discussion. 

They gathered to debrief on the discussion some protestors had with the officials and gather a group consensus on how to move forward. Many protestors expressed that the exchange with Patterson and Lieblich was off-putting and left them feeling threatened.

However, the consensus among student protestors was to not take the administration’s offer, as the encampment was not deconstructed and teach-ins were held.

 “We asked them what was going to happen after 7 p.m., they said it wasn’t in their ability to answer us,” one protestor said. The students then expressed that it felt as though they were receiving a threat from the administration.

Others expressed how the attempted negotiation felt too limited, with no clear response to the other three demands of the student protestors. 

“I feel insulted, honestly, that they were going to put all of this down for a conversation a week later when amnesty has been the only demand that would be met,” expressed another student protestor. “That’s not our main goal. We didn’t do this for fun … and it shows how little they respect us and how little they’re taking this seriously.”

At 6:22 p.m. students within the encampment flattened their tents.


Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on Parker Quad at 7 p.m. to support the encampment. (Photo courtesy of Emily Clayton).

7:15 p.m.: Patterson and Lieblich arrived back at the encampment to further discuss coming to an agreement. “We see that you have taken the tents down, we appreciate that,” said Patterson. “That said, we are asking for a time extension until 9 o’clock for disbursement.”

At this point the encampment had amassed about 200 protestors within. A large number of onlookers were also present around the encampment.

Patterson continued by saying that President Wheeler has agreed to having a meeting tomorrow, May 3 instead of May 6 to discuss demands one through three that the protestors are calling for.

One person within the encampment asked “What happens at 10? What happens at 9?” Patterson replied, “I do not have an answer for that.”

Patterson and Lieblich then left and demonstrators began a chant saying, “We ain’t leaving.”


10 p.m.: Police presence became present on campus. Approximately 30 police cars were parked in the commuter parking lot outside Ridgeview Hall. At 10:03 p.m. a police car with a loudspeaker informed everyone on the quad that if they continued to stay there, they could be arrested. Helicopters with spotlights and drones were used to survey Parker Quad.

10:20 p.m.: Police warned that in 10 minutes they would enter the quad and make arrests. At 10:27 p.m. President Darrell Wheeler sent an email to all students informing them that police force would be used to remove the encampment from Parker Quad. “I understand that some in our community will hold me personally and solely responsible for tonight’s events,” the email read. “I will have to integrate and accept that, and yet I remain steadfast in my belief that this action is necessary to protect the future of our institution and all its constituents.”

10:30 p.m.: Police entered Parker Quad with riot gear, they formed a circle around the encampment and began making arrests. The exact number of arrests made so far is unknown at this time.

Friday, May 3: UPDATE

12:39 a.m.: There have been over 60+ people arrested so far on Parker Quad.


9:37 a.m.: The Daily Freeman reports that police arrested 133 people according to state police.

This situation is ongoing and information will be published as it becomes available.

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