Thursday, November 9: Students march behind a banner reading “Intifada Everywhere” on Reed College’s campus.
This is a breaking news story, full coverage is available here.
Update (11/11, 5:52 PM): The original version of this article quoted Reed Professor Marat Grinberg on the history of the word “intifada.” At the time of the article’s publication, the Quest was unaware that Professor Grinberg had previously expressed support for certain views on Twitter which the editors found deeply troubling. Had the Quest been aware of these views, the paper would not have quoted Professor Grinberg. When the paper became aware of these views, the editors made the decision to immediately remove the quotes, after being informed by the Student Press Freedom Initiative that it was legal to do so. We have replaced Professor Grinberg’s comments with a direct quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica. We thank those who brought this to our attention.
Update (11/11, 6:07 PM): The Quest was alerted the last sentence of paragraph 21 still made a reference to Professor Grinberg’s quote, which was no longer in the article. That sentence has now also been removed.
Update (11/11, 12:25 PM): the Quest received comment from a representative of the college, which said, “The safety of our Reed campus community is the college’s primary concern at any campus gathering. College leadership is aware of what took place at Thursday’s rally and will continue discussions regarding possible next steps.” The comment was received at 11:38 AM Friday, but missed by the Quest due to the overwhelming number of other messages received that day. The Quest regrets the oversight.
At 1:30pm on Thursday, November 9, approximately a hundred Reed College students, led by the Reed Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), walked out of class to demand “an immediate ceasefire, an end to U.S. military aid to Israel, [and] an end to the siege on Gaza.” Reed SJP organized the walkout in conjunction with Free People PDX, the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), and the National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP), which coordinated similar walkouts across the country. Reed students marched behind a banner reading “Intifada Everywhere,” while chanting slogans including, “Palestine is our demand / no peace on stolen land,” “When Palestine is under attack / What do we do? Stand up, fight back,” “Hey hey, ho ho / Israel Has Got to Go,” and “There is only one solution / intifada revolution!” The Reed SJP had posted these chants to their Instagram prior to the walkout. The Quest also recorded an audio clip of students and other protesters chanting “globalize the intifada.”
According to Britannica, the word “intifada” refers to, “either of two popular uprisings of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip aimed at ending Israel’s occupation of those territories and creating an independent Palestinian state. The first intifada began in December 1987 and ended in September 1993 with the signing of the first Oslo Accords, which provided a framework for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The second intifada, sometimes called the Al-Aqṣā intifada, began in September 2000. Although no single event signaled its end, most analysts agree that it had run its course by late 2005. The two uprisings resulted in the death of more than 5,000 Palestinians and some 1,400 Israelis.”
The National Students for Justice in Palestine is a student organization which encompasses a number of campus chapters working to “[build] on the legacy & impact of the student movement in occupied Turtle Island (U.S. and Canada), … [and which] seeks to empower, unify, and support student organizers as they push forward demands for Palestinian liberation & self-determination on their campuses.” Brandeis University and Columbia University have both suspended on-campus chapters of the SJP following disruptive protests, with a spokesperson for Brandeis saying, “SJP has called on its chapters to engage in conduct that supports Hamas in its call for the elimination of the only Jewish state in the world and its people.” The NSJP frequently makes use of images of paratroopers deploying onto a battlefield, and the University of Illinois chapter of the SJP posted a photo of a Hamas terrorist inside an Israeli home.
The Thursday walkout took place on the 85th anniversary of the first Nazi pogrom, Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass — which saw synagogues, homes, and businesses destroyed and hundreds of German Jews slaughtered during the night of November 9 and morning of November 10, 1938.
Late on Thursday night, the Quest reached out to the SJP to inquire whether the organization was aware of the date’s significance prior to the walkout. At 8pm, the Quest had issued a general comment deadline of noon on the 10th to both the organization and college administration. A representative of the college responded on Friday afternoon, “The safety of our Reed campus community is the college’s primary concern at any campus gathering. College leadership is aware of what took place at Thursday’s rally and will continue discussions regarding possible next steps.”
SJP had initially told reporters it was unreasonable to expect any kind of statement by Friday and released an Instagram statement that night saying “it is irresponsible of the Quest to publish an initial headline without perspectives from SJP organizers, which would further contextualize the events of the 9th.” At 11pm, the Quest was made aware of the anniversary of Kristallnacht, and contacted Reed SJP again, writing, “The Quest has just been made aware that today’s walkout took place on the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, [sic] the first Nazi pogrom against Jews in 1938. Was the Reed SJP aware of this history prior to conducting the walkout? Was the date of November 9th set by the national SJP?” (See a screenshot of this conversation.)
On Friday morning, the organization responded: “We were fully aware of the anniversary of Kristallnacht [sic], though the event was not planned around this anniversary. Rather, the event date was set by a coalition of various national organizations to avoid falling on a federal holiday to ensure our demands were heard by our representatives.” (The Quest has been able to independently verify that the date of November 9 was announced by an international organization called Shut It Down for Palestine, which describes itself as a coalition between the Palestinian Youth Movement, the National Students for Justice in Palestine, the Answer Coalition, The People’s Forum, and the International Peoples’ Assembly.) “That being said,” the Reed SJP continued, “remembering the Holocaust is a necessary part of our movement against the genocide of Palestinians. Antisemitic beliefs have no place in our movement, and we condemn all antisemitic actions, past, present, and future.”
“Furthermore,” the organization wrote, “Reed SJP, at the request of its Jewish members, would like to remind the Quest that the weaponization of Jewish trauma to suppress protests against genocide is not only blatant hypocrisy, but also a form of antisemitism in and of itself. Accusing critics of the Israeli government of being antisemitic suggests that all Jews are responsible for the actions of said government, rendering the Jewish people a monolith and creating potential for scapegoating. Indeed, this weaponization of Jewish history exploits Jews and their suffering for the ideological ends of the imperialist Israeli government. Our message of liberation extends to all oppressed people, including Jewish people. This rally was in alliance with nearly 100 other events by similar organizations across the country on November 9th. The act of walking out and rallying in support of Palestine has absolutely no relation to antisemitism, and needless to say we denounce antisemitism in all its forms. The enemies of Palestine are Zionism, colonialism, and occupation– not Jewish people. From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”
The Quest has at no point accused the SJP or any of its members of antisemitism.
The Quest had already reached out to the SJP for comment twice that night, first in person, then via text. When reporters knocked on the door of an in-progress SJP meeting, those inside opened the door, but closed it again without speaking after the reporters identified themselves.
While SJP organizers spoke in front of Vollum Hall, a protester displayed the flag of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The Quest has not been able to independently confirm if this individual was a student. The PFLP is a designated terrorist organization that demands the destruction of Israel, and has carried out a number of assassinations, airline hijackings, and suicide bombings.
Before moving downtown, organizers acknowledged there was a legal risk to protesters. They told protesters it was unlikely they would be arrested, but to “go limp” if they were. They asked that any “students here on visas or at legal risk of any capacity do not enter the building,” referring to the Portland World Trade Center. A number of organizers said they could offer first aid supplies, hand warmers, masks, earplugs, snacks, and water, if necessary. “Reedies take care of Reedies,” one said.
After half an hour, protesters walked to a nearby TriMet station. As they did, two students halted traffic using the “Intifada Everywhere” banner.
The protesters traveled by bus to the Portland World Trade Center, which contains the private office of United States Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The protesters’ stated aim was to lobby for Merkley’s support for a ceasefire. The Quest could not independently confirm whether the senator was present in the building.
Once the students reached the World Trade Center at around 2:45pm, they were joined by approximately one hundred and fifty other protesters not associated with the college. Four masked men wearing all black, one of whom appeared to be armed with a riot baton, surrounded the block.
Protest speakers, some of whom were Reed students, addressed the crowd with bullhorns in what they described as “a teach-in to learn about the movement for a free Palestine, why we need to demand a ceasefire immediately, and why we need to end all U.S. aid to Israel and fight for a free Palestine.” Speakers criticized U.S. aid to Israel, the “failing proxy war” in Ukraine, the Continental Army of the American Revolutionary War, high rent in Portland, and the Lockheed Martin and Boeing corporations.
Shortly after 3:00pm, a group broke from the main crowd of protesters and illegally entered the skywalk in front of the World Trade Center. Several pounded on the glass, and at least one spray-painted slogans onto the walls.
One Reed student, who spoke to the Quest on the condition of anonymity because they had broken the law, entered the building with other protesters. They said the group intended to “confront the senator.” The student continued, “Some of the protesters started trying to pull the doors open … people started throwing themselves at the doors … there was a battering ram involved, it wasn’t a real battering ram, it was like some chairs or something.” The Quest has independently confirmed that Reed students used a makeshift battering ram in an attempt to breach the locked doors of the World Trade Center. However, the attempt was unsuccessful, and the anonymous student left the skywalk after they “started having a panic attack.”
Reporters observed that at least nineteen officers from the Portland Police Department had arrived on the scene by 3:30pm. At least two wore riot gear, and five gathered on bicycles equipped with devices capable of forming barricades. A car from the Portland Sheriff’s Department arrived at 3:58pm. A fire truck and an ambulance circled the block but did not park.
At 3:38pm, the police declared the gathering unlawful and threatened to arrest any protesters who remained in the skywalk. None appeared to depart, and, after a delay, officers entered the skywalk. A short time later, they reemerged, having arrested at least two demonstrators, who the Quest visually identified as Reed students. The Oregonian later confirmed that the police arrested a total of five protesters on site over the course of the demonstration, and a sixth after a short chase, and released the names of those detained. The Quest has confirmed from the campus directory that four of those arrested were current Reed students. On the night of the 9th, the SJP publicly confirmed that all detained Reed students have since been released.
At 4:30pm, once the arrests had concluded, the police departed the scene, even though almost all of the protesters remained inside. Protesters then resumed the chant of “Intifada intifada / long live the intifada,” and, after a brief pause for applause, shifted to a new chant: “There is only one solution / intifada revolution.”
Protesters outside the Portland World Trade Center chant “There is only one solution / intifada revolution.”
A few minutes later, the protesters expressed their intention to continue the demonstration until the end of the working day. Quest reporters intended to remain until the protest’s conclusion, but were forced to leave after being chased from the scene by one of the four masked men surrounding the block.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.