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Urgent Call to Protect Civic Spaces on Campus as Violence Escalates Against Students  

Date: May 1, 2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

UNITED STATES, 1 May 2024 — Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) denounces violent police and retaliatory action against student and faculty organizers for Palestine, urges protection of civic space and third-party observers and responders, and emphasizes the need for peaceful negotiation pathways. 

As college students and faculty around the United States organize in support of Palestine through student encampments and other forms of nonviolent protest, NP is deeply concerned about the violent escalations repressing these actions and calls for the immediate protection of these civic spaces. 

“The militarized repression of student encampments and widespread violence—including the use of tear gas, tasers, rubber bullets, and physical force—used against nonviolent protesters by law enforcement authorities, counter-protesters, and other retaliatory groups is a grave and urgent concern,” warned Kalaya’an Mendoza, Director of Mutual Protection for NP in the United States.  

Aligned with stated commitments and legal obligations to protect free speech, nonviolent protest, and dissent on campus, we urge universities to resist pressure to restrict or prohibit students from these actions. There are multiple pathways to peaceful negotiation available to university administrators and other duty bearers that do not involve recourse to violence. 

NP is particularly concerned about the active and intentional exclusion of third-party protest observers, legal observers, media, and medical response personnel from these spaces by police and other security personnel. As communities gather to protest and affirm their rights, it is critical that the non-partisan civilian safety actors at these kinds of actions are understood and their agency to act is protected.  

“The role of trained Safety teams and third-party monitors at protest actions is critical for public safety, and an important way to ensure that everyone’s right to peaceful assembly—protected under the First Amendment—is upheld,” said Mendoza. “Third-party monitors are non-partisan; their goal is to peacefully de-escalate tensions using nonviolent strategies so that everyone is able to gather and share their views without fear.” 

Administrators and government institutions must proactively hold space for students, faculty, and community members to safely express their views, engage in negotiation, and participate in the democratic process. As always, NP stands strong against all hate violence, affirming that identity-based hate speech— including Islamophobia and antisemitism—has no place in safe civic space. We urge all parties involved to practice nonviolence, drawing inspiration from the countless examples of effective nonviolent tactics already demonstrated on campuses across the nation. 

These calls stand alongside NP’s urgent calls for and longstanding support of a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, staunch opposition to a ground offensive in Rafah, the release of all hostages, and the immediate expansion and facilitation of aid crossings to Occupied Palestinian Territories by land. We continue to urge all parties to protect civilians and respect humanitarian law.  

NP is an international protection agency. Our mission is to protect civilians in violent conflicts through unarmed strategies, build peace side-by-side with local communities, and advocate for the wider adoption of these approaches to safeguard human lives and dignity.  

Contact   

Advocacy: Felicity Gray, Global Head of Policy & Advocacy, [email protected]   

Media: Claire Guinta, External Relations Manager, [email protected]   

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