Ming DeMers/Sun Senior Photographer

Speakers express pride in the solidarity built through the encampment.

May 14, 2024

Coalition for Mutual Liberation Voluntarily Ends Encampment

Print More

The Arts Quad is no longer dotted with colorful tents.

The Coalition for Mutual Liberation voluntarily took down its pro-Palestine encampment on Monday, two and a half weeks after it was initially erected on April 25.

Approximately 250 supporters circled the original “Liberated Zone” space — no longer surrounded by a black tarp — as the encampment held a final vigil for the lives lost in Rafah starting at 6 p.m. Monday. Rafah, the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city, has seen heightened Israeli bombardment and operations over the past week, with the Israeli military ordering populations to evacuate areas of the city.

Supporters held small candles as demonstrators discussed the significance of the encampment for themselves and the people of Palestine. The vigil ended with supporters joining in a human chain, reminiscent of the one formed on the first day of the encampment. Supporters had surrounded participants on April 25 as they passed the 8 p.m. deadline to leave, a cutoff marked with threats of academic suspensions from administrators.

CML, a pro-Palestine coalition of over 40 on and off-campus organizations, will donate the extra food and supplies at the encampment to the local Ithaca community and broader Tompkins area, according to a Monday Instagram post. CML also pledged to donate at least half of the encampment’s financial support garnered from community members to charities supporting Palestinians in Gaza. A CML representative told The Sun that the specific list of charities has not yet been determined. 

“Though the Liberated Zone is closing, we will not stop fighting for the liberation of Palestinians in Gaza because no one can be free until everyone is free,” CML wrote in the Monday Instagram post.

Maral Asik ’24, who occupied Day Hall and supported the encampment, told The Sun that it felt “bittersweet” to watch the encampment come to a close.

“We created a community like no other on Cornell campus — the space for our peers and classmates to come and connect and feel safe and included and cared for,” Asak said. 

Six Temporary Suspensions, Zero Arrests

Cornell’s pro-Palestine encampment endured on the Arts Quad for over two weeks with not a single arrest. But the same cannot be said for the encampments at the majority of the Ivy League universities.

Encampments were held at all eight Ivies, five of which saw arrests and detainments since April 18, according to New York Times data as of May 10.

Only 0.4 of the nation’s undergraduate students attend Ivy League universities. Yet with 406 cases, the Ivies account for 14.26 percent of the total arrests and detainments at U.S. colleges and universities since April 18, totaling 2,847.

With 217 cases, Columbia University accounts for over half of the Ivy League arrests and detainments. Columbia has the second-highest number of instances out of all U.S. colleges and universities, just short of the University of California, Los Angeles at 243 cases.

With minimal police presence around the encampment, Cornell’s administration instead emphasized academic repercussions for demonstrators. Six encampment participants — including both undergraduates and graduate students — were suspended.

This approach not only contrasts with the response to encampments at the majority of the Ivies, but with prior Cornell actions in the Spring 2024 semester. 22 students and two staff members were arrested for trespassing when they occupied Day Hall on March 21. With the occupation staged during a Board of Trustees meeting in Ithaca, protesters called on President Martha Pollack to call for a vote on divestment from arms suppliers and defense companies.

Negotiation Updates

The original demands set at the beginning of the encampment were altered as the “Liberated Zone” adjusted to ongoing negotiations with the University, according to the CML representative.

CML notably dropped its original demands for the University to “remove all police from campus” and to “call for an unconditional, permanent ceasefire in Gaza.”

The Coalition for Mutual Liberation sent the updated demands of the encampment to President Martha Pollack ahead of a May 10 meeting. (Courtesy of the Coalition for Mutual Liberation)

The Negotiations Team for the Coalition for Mutual Liberation’s “Liberated Zone” met with President Pollack at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 10. Approximately 25 protesters gathered and chanted around Day Hall in support, urging Pollack to initiate divestment.

President Martha Pollack told the Negotiations Team of the Coalition for Mutual Liberation’s “Liberated Zone” that divestment was not feasible, due to the endowment being indirectly managed, according to a CML Instagram post from Saturday, May 11. The administration also did not support providing full amnesty for encampment participants and “questioned Cornell’s complicity in Indigenous genocide,” according to the post.

The University declined to comment on the status of negotiations with demonstrators.

Asik said that although she is graduating, she is sure divestment proponents will “keep fighting” for change on campus.

“The struggle is going to continue next year,” Asik said. “We’re going to get right back on campus and start right back up again.”

Update, 5/16, 7:20 p.m.: This article has been updated to include comments from Maral Asik ’24, information about arrests across the Ivy League and updates about the negotiation process.