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Campus Break-in

Anti-Israel Stanford students take over president’s office; university arrests 13 protesters

The protesters caused extensive damage to an administration building near the Quad; university removes encampment

Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

A group of prospective students walk by a tent encampment in White Plaza in support of Palestine during a campus tour at Stanford University, in Stanford, Calif., Tuesday, April 30, 2024.

Months of intense anti-Israel protests at Stanford University escalated on Wednesday morning — the last day of classes for the spring quarter — when 13 students and alumni broke into and barricaded themselves inside President Richard Saller’s office, insisting that the university meet their demands to cut ties with Israel. Within hours of the 5:30 a.m. break-in, law enforcement arrested all of the rioters and the university shut down an anti-Israel illegal encampment that has engulfed campus since April. 

The demonstrators filmed themselves covering Saller’s desk in red paint, destroyed property and renamed the building to “Dr. Adnan Office,” in honor of Dr. Adnan al-Bursh, “the Palestinian General Surgeon who was murdered in April by the Israeli genocidal campaign,” the group told The Stanford Daily. Al-Bursh died while in Israeli prison, where he was being held due to national security reasons, the Israel Defense Forces said. 

Meanwhile, chaos ensued outside of the building as well; a public safety officer was injured after being shoved by the demonstrators, who were interfering with a transport vehicle. The Main Quad, the historic center of the university, was scrawled with graffiti such as “De@th 2 Isr@hell,” “Pigs taste best dead” and “F*** Amerikkka.” 

“There has been extensive damage to the interior of Building 10, [where Saller’s office is located], and exterior of the buildings in the quad,” Dee Mostofi, a Stanford University spokesperson told Jewish Insider.  

Dozens of students and alumni have continued rioting — including throwing medal barricades at police officers — outside of the building throughout Wednesday morning. 

“We are appalled that our students chose to take this action and we will work with law enforcement to ensure that they face the full consequences allowed by law,” Mostofi said. “All arrested students will be immediately suspended and in case any of them are seniors, they will not be allowed to graduate.” 

Mostofi continued, “We have consistently emphasized the need for constructive engagement and peaceful protest when there is a disagreement in views. This was not peaceful protest and actions such as what occurred this morning have no place at Stanford.” 

The student and alumni demonstrators issued three demands to Stanford: add the divestment bill submitted by Stanford Against Apartheid in Palestine to the next Board of Trustees meeting, with a recommendation by Saller supporting the bill; disclose finances from the fiscal year 2022 including endowment investments; and drop all disciplinary and criminal charges against pro-Palestinian students at Stanford.

The swift disciplinary action from Stanford administration on Wednesday stands in sharp contrast to how the school has approached prior anti-Israel demonstrations, which have skyrocketed on campus since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. 

“The administration treated these people with kid gloves the entire time and have refused to discipline them from the get-go, back in October,” Kevin Feigelis, a doctoral student in the physics department, told JI. “When you refuse to discipline people that misbehave, you give an inch, they take a mile. They have gotten more radicalized.” 

In January, after students hurled antisemitic slogans outside of an on-campus forum meant to combat antisemitism organized by Feigelis, the administration took no punitive action. 

The chants shouted at Feigelis and other Jewish students included, “We’re going to find out where you live,” “Zionist, Zionist, you can’t hide” and “Go back to Brooklyn.”

The Stanford administration allowed an anti-Israel encampment to remain on campus since April. On Wednesday, Saller said in a statement that because of the morning’s occupation, the encampment was removed “in the interest of public safety.”  

The removal came after more than 300 people set up tents in White Plaza for more than a month, despite the administration announcing in a university-wide statement in May that the encampment “violates our policy on overnight camping, which is in place for the safety of our community members. Even during the daytime, the encampment also violates our policies on the use of White Plaza.” Around the country, dozens of universities shut down similar illegal demonstrations within weeks. 

Feigelis continued, “it’s sad that the only time they sent in police was when it was the president’s office himself, as opposed to every time Jewish students have been terrorized on campus.” 

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