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Kalaya'an Mendoza: "There are many ways to remain safe when protesting."

Date: May 8, 2024

Edwin J. Viera, Producer, Public News Service

New York groups are providing student protesters with resources to help sustain demonstrations safely and peacefully, as the war between Israel and Hamas wears on.

At night, blurry photo showing police in NYC
A report from the nonprofit Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project showed student demonstrations make up around one-third of all U.S. protests related to the Israel-Hamas War since it began. (Kalaya'an Mendoza)

In the weeks since they began, student protesters have faced arrests, rubber bullets, and other crowd-breaking tactics by law enforcement. Students want universities and colleges to divest from Israel amid the country's ongoing war with Hamas. Others have shown support for Israel.

Kalaya'an Mendoza, director of mutual protection for the group Nonviolent Peaceforce, said there are many ways to remain safe when protesting.

"If you're going to any protest, action, or demonstration, always make sure you have a buddy and always make sure that someone else knows where you are at and when you plan to be home safe," Mendoza urged. "Number two, practice situational awareness. Situational awareness is essentially understanding what's happening around you."

Mendoza emphasized protesters should also pay attention to exit points, be aware of threats, be prepared with water, a snack and necessary meds, and carry a mask in case of tear gas. For bystanders and others, he pointed out basic situational awareness can help them navigate protests and encampments.

Students aren't the only ones causing the ruckus. The New York City Police Department reported more than half of the 170 people arrested at a City College protest were not students, and 29% of the 112 arrested at Columbia were not either.

Mendoza stressed administrators should do the opposite of what they have been doing.

"School administrators should be meeting with students and should not escalate to this point," Mendoza argued. "These students are unarmed, they are engaged in practicing peaceful non-violent protest, which is a fundamental human right."

He asserted the primary source of violence has been police escalation at encampments. A report from the nonprofit Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project showed a majority of student protests occurring since last October when the war in Gaza began have been peaceful. New York has seen the most pro-Israel and pro-Palestine demonstrations with California running a close second.

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