Student Intifada

In 1964, Mario Savio spoke to a crowd assembled on Sproul Plaza at University of California, Berkeley, “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part.” He exhorted, “You’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels… And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”


Four years later, students at Columbia University heeded his call and occupied several buildings on campus, including Hamilton Hall, to protest the Vietnam War and the university’s racism towards the Black community in the surrounding Harlem neighborhood. In 1985, Hamilton Hall was liberated again by students who demanded the university divest from apartheid South Africa.


On April 17, students setup the Gaza Solidarity Encampment on the South Lawn, this time calling for the university to divest from corporations who profit from Israel’s genocide. The next day, university administrators invited in the NYPD who arrested over 100 students. This sparked a conflagration of student activism: more than 174 camps in solidarity with Gaza have emerged in campuses around the world.


On Nakba Day, we will convene a panel discussion on the liberated zones emerging on campuses, how we can escalate the Student Intifada to free Palestine, from the river to the sea. As the semester draws to a close, universities with the aid of local police are violently cracking down on camps. Student agency is dismissed by authorities who attribute the encampments to so-called “outside agitators“.


On May Day, police brutally removed students occupying Hamilton Hall, which was renamed Hind’s Hall in honor of six-year old Hind Rajab who was killed with her family by Israeli forces in Gaza. The next day, across the coast, officers wearing body armor attacked the camp at UCLA, launching flares and shooting rubber bullets at students, resulting in over 200 arrests. This was after five hours of violent assaults on students by Zionists — students were beaten with sticks and had chemicals sprayed in their faces — while police watched but did not intervene.


Student activism is inherently ephemeral. How will the current moment retain its stamina through the summer and into the fall semester? And, how will we escalate the student intifada to win freedom for Palestine?


Our speakers include veterans from the 1968 and 1985 occupations at Columbia, Mark Rudd and Omar Barghouti, as well as Maryam Alwan and Soph Askanase from the current insurgency. Yvonne Yen Liu from Solidarity Research Center will facilitate.


Date: Wednesday, May 15th 2024
Time: 9:00 to 10:30 AM PDT/11:00  AM to 12:30 PM CDT/12:00 to 1:30 PM EDT/7:00 to 8:30 PM EEST


Photo by Zongyi Wang.



  • MARK RUDD, former member of Students for a Democratic Society and Weather Underground
  • MARYAM ALWAN, Students for Justice in Palestine at Columbia University
  • OMAR BARGHOUTI, co-founder of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement for Palestinian rights
  • SOPH ASKANASE, Columbia University Apartheid Divest Coalition (CUAD)


YVONNE YEN LIU, Solidarity Research Center


Spanish and American Sign Language interpretation will be provided

Panelist biographies:

Mark Rudd

Mark Rudd

Former member of Students for a Democratic Society and Weather Underground

MARK RUDD was a student activist and organizer in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapter at Columbia University from 1965 to 1968. He was one of the leaders of the spring 1968 occupation of five buildings and the subsequent strike against the university’s complicity with the Vietnam War and its racism. He was identified by the press at the time as the symbol of student radicals.

After he was kicked out of Columbia, he became a full-time organizer for SDS, where he helped to found the militant Weatherman faction. He was elected National Secretary of SDS in June 1969, then helped to found the Weather Underground, which had as its goal “the violent overthrow of the government of the US in solidarity with the struggles of the people of the world.”

Wanted on federal charges of bombing and conspiracy, Mark was a fugitive from 1970 to 1977. All of the charges were dropped because of government illegalities. From 1980 to 2006, he was a math instructor at a community college in Albuquerque, New Mexico and a perennial organizer and nonviolent activist locally on issues of Native American land rights, nuclear, US military interventions, Palestine solidarity, unionization, environmental justice, and war and militarization.

Mark retired from teaching in 2007 and has been devoting himself since then to organizing and also writing and speaking on the history he was involved in. He published a book Underground: My Life in SDS and the Weathermen (Harper Collins) in March 2009.

Maryam Alwan

Maryam Alwan

Students for Justice in Palestine, Columbia University

MARYAM ALWAN is a fourth-year Palestinian-American in the dual degree program between Sciences Po and Columbia University, majoring in politics and government with a focus on the Middle East while in France and comparative literature and society while in New York City. She is one of the many Students for Justice in Palestine organizers in the horizontal alliance between SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace. Maryam was among the 100 students arrested on April 18 when the NYPD cleared the encampment. She was later suspended by the university.

Omar Barghouti

Omar Barghouti

Co-founder of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights and recipient of 2017 Gandhi Peace Award

OMAR BARGHOUTI is a Palestinian human rights defender, co-founder of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and recipient of the 2017 Gandhi Peace Award.

He holds a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University, New York, and is pursuing a PhD in Philosophy (ethics) at the University of Amsterdam.

Omar is the author of BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Haymarket 2011). His commentaries and views have appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, among other publications.

Soph Askanase

Soph Askanase

Columbia University Apartheid Divest Coalition

Soph Askanase is a religion major at Barnard, focusing on the intersection of radical social justice movements and religion in America. They organize with Jewish Voices for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Columbia University Apartheid Divest Coalition, heavily focusing on integrating art into activism and mobilizing their Jewish peers to fight against the scourge that is Zionism. Soph was among the first three Barnard students to be suspended for participating in the encampments, and was later among the 108 arrested.

Facilitator biography:

Yvonne Yen Liu

Yvonne Yen Liu

Co-founder of Solidarity Research Center

YVONNE YEN LIU co-founded Students for Global Justice at Columbia University in the wake of September 11, 2001. She led efforts to shut down the World Economic Forum meeting in New York City in February 2002.

The university administration tried to block students from gathering on campus, maligning them as “terrorists” who would set fire to buildings as activists, they alleged, did during the Battle of Seattle. The students prevailed: Yvonne helped to organize a counter-summit at Columbia and Barnard, attended by over 2,000 students, and she coordinated the presence of more than 10,000 youth in the streets.

In 2015, Yvonne co-founded Solidarity Research Center, which started as the research arm of the syndicalist union the Industrial Workers of the World. She is a research fellow with the Transnational Institute and serves on the boards of the Institute for Social Ecology and the New Economy Coalition.