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By Herb Boyd —

First I heard the drumming, then the chants of “Viva, Viva Palestina!” from a long line of protesters marching down 146th Street on Saturday right under my window. I had taken a day off from covering the demonstrations at Columbia University, but now they were on my block. The protests, like the war between Israel and Hamas, had spread beyond the campus, into neighborhoods where Columbia University had its version of occupied territory. I grabbed my camera and hurried downstairs to join the march, which went around the corner to the 145th Street subway station.

The crowd of protesters entered the station to board the train and before I could pay my fare one of the marshals paid my fare and rode with them to 125th Street where we disembarked and walked up 124th Street to Broadway and onto Columbia University. “We started the march up on 175th Street,” said Fatema, who walked with me. “The idea was to protest the area that Columbia is trying to expand into over the next decade or so. We called it the March Against Displacement from Harlem to Palestine and it was endorsed by Defend Harlem among other Palestine-oriented groups from all over the city.”

Once reaching the university, the massive crowd was contained within barriers as it had been during my previous visits. “The people united can never be defeated,” a chorus of chanters shouted in unison as a brigade of officers were strung out along the street. A flier distributed by the protesters declared that over the last seven months, “Israel had murdered over 42,000 Palestinians and injured more than 80,000 Palestinians.” A list of demands followed, including “We demand that Columbia call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and denounce the ongoing genocide against Palestinians.”

Moreover, “We demand that Columbia stop displacing communities in Harlem and Palestine.” It further demanded that Columbia divest from Israeli apartheid and all companies that profit off of the violence committed against Palestinians. The list concluded with the demand that Columbia stop censoring and intimidating students who are standing up and advocating for Palestinian liberation.

Over the last week or so many students have been arrested and at least three of them suspended, including the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar. As darkness arrived I departed, leaving Fatema and her cohort there to continue the rally. No matter the threat of doxxing and being suspended, the students were defiant in exercising their constitutional rights. “Viva, viva Palestina” echoed down the streets as worked my way back to 146th Street.

Featured image: Photo by Herb Boyd

Herb Boyd

Herb Boyd is an American journalist, educator, author, and activist. His articles appear regularly in the New York Amsterdam News. He teaches black studies at the City College of New York and the College of New Rochelle.