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Pro-Palestine protesters speak at last Regents meeting of the semester

On Thursday, May 16, pro-Palestine protesters attended the last University of New Mexico Board of Regents meeting of the semester, calling for the university to cut financial ties with Israel and criticizing the police response to the recent demonstrations on campus.

At 10 a.m., protesters rallied at Zimmerman Plaza then marched to the Student Union Building. They filled the ballroom where the meeting took place, holding signs and Palestinian flags.

Nearly 100 people signed up for public comment, according to Ernesto Longa, a professor at UNM School of Law. The BOR limited public comment to 30 minutes – allotting 15 minutes to “each side,” Longa said.

The Regents allowed New Mexico Representative Eleanor Chávez to speak first. Chávez called for University divestment from Israel. She referenced a May 15 report by the University Network for Human Rights and four law schools that concluded Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute genocide against Palestinians.

“I also want to add that humanitarian aid has been restricted, intentionally forcing starvation on the people of Palestine,” Chávez said.

UNM Police Department and New Mexico State Police involvement in the May 14-15 dismantling of the Duck Pond encampment and the April 29-30 occupation of the SUB led to multiple protester injuries, UNM alumni and former College Democrats President Rakin Faruk said at the meeting.

“We have had comrades brutalized to the point of not being able to walk, to the point of broken ribs, to the point of concussions … my friends are forgetting our names,” Faruk said.

Multiple students, including Palestinian medical student Farah Alqawasmi, called for UNM divestment from Israel.

“You failed to mention the very thing that we are protesting in your emails to your student body … even if I try to understand that you ‘should not serve as a political tool to express institutional opinions on intricate social and geopolitical matters’ – how can you invest in the systems that are causing the very thing that we refuse to even name?” Alqawasmi said.

Alex Fischer, a doctoral student in the physics department and author of an open letter against UNM divestment from Israel, said he believes universities should not make politically motivated decisions.

“The core purpose of the University is to provide a place for people from many different backgrounds to come together and learn from each other and produce new knowledge. This learning and research is best done in an environment without politically motivated action from administration,” Fischer said.

Among public commenters who identified themselves as Jewish, some supported divestment from Israel and some expressed feelings against it. Some also expressed feelings of unsafety on campus.

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Les Field, a professor in the anthropology department who is Jewish, told the Daily Lobo he is sympathetic to Jewish students who have experienced anti-semitism – but said the connection between anti-semitism and recent UNM protests is “tenuous.”

“I am a Jew, and I have experienced anti-semitism; I know what it is, and I know it hasn’t been here. Neither at this encampment, or at these marches, or any of the events put on by this movement,” Field said.

At the end of the meeting, protesters chanted “disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest,” and walked to the Duck Pond where the UNM Palestine solidarity encampment was located for 24 days. There, they said they would continue demonstrations on campus over the summer, as they wait for UNM to disclose research into their investment portfolio.

Stokes committed to this disclosure in a University-wide email on May 14.

“We’re not taking a summer break. Stokes said that by August 22, which is the next Board of Regents meeting … they will be committing to full disclosure of all investments tied to Israel. So, we’ll take that win and we’ll celebrate it, but we know that we have a lot of effort to put in to make sure that they’re actually disclosing everything that they have,” Faruk said.

Paloma Chapa is the multimedia editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @paloma_chapa88

Paloma Chapa

Paloma Chapa is the multimedia editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @paloma_chapa88

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