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The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

Inside the Final Student Encampment in NYC

We always hear of the first, but do we ever hear of the last? An interview with the media liaison at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s pro-Palestine encampment
Image from @cunygse Instagram

As of Monday, May 6th, the NYPD had dismantled all of New York’s pro-Palestine encampments, except for the one at the Fashion Institute of Technology. We took the subway down to Chelsea to interview Tammi, the designated media liaison, on May 6th. Located on the sidewalk of 27th Street near 8th Avenue, the encampment was organized and tranquil. The tents were adorned with vibrant art and sunshine and filled with a community of kind, impassioned students who offered us free food and water. It’s hard to comprehend that this would be the encampment’s last full day in existence.


On Tuesday night, the NYPD came in riot gear to disperse the encampment. According to organizers, they arrested nearly 20 demonstrators and two journalists attempting to cover the situation. Crowds of students linked arms and held flowers in front of the police, chanting “The people united will never be defeated,” as seen on Salem Dyroff’s Instagram live. Other FIT students reported that the NYPD locked them inside their dorms, and many of the people we met in the encampment said they had been suspended from school. 


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


EDW: Am I correct in assuming this is NYC’s last encampment? 


Tammi: Yes, at the moment it is. We’ve gotten word that other encampments may be coming back or are being reestablished at other universities. But to our knowledge, at this moment, we are the last one.


EDW: What exactly are your demands?


Tammi: First, divestment from Israeli apartheid and corporations that benefit and profit off of the genocide in Gaza. Our second demand also ties into divestment and FIT’s financial transparency, especially considering it’s a public university. Their financial records are meant to be public and accessible, but the records we’ve been given are very vague and the wording of certain investments won’t say exactly what it is: Most funds will just say International Investments. Our third demand is for a statement from our president and our administration acknowledging and condemning the genocide in Gaza because we’ve received three emails since October 7th and none of them even mention the word Palestine. They referred to Gaza as the Gaza Strip in Israel. And they’re only ever condemning the loss of life of settlers, but there’s been no email reassuring or comforting the Palestinian, Arab, or Brown American students on this campus. Our final demand: A couple of weeks ago, three dorming students were putting up divestment flyers with Nelson Mandela on them saying that SUNY, because they divested from South African apartheid in the 80s, can divest from apartheid again. They were all charged with hate speech, antisemitism, discrimination, intimidation, and bullying. Two of them were no longer allowed to dorm after the semester and then one of them, an R.A. who posted the flyer to our board, was fired, evicted, and then fined $1300 for putting up the divestment poster. That’s our last demand, that the administration and the res-life offices drop the charges against those students.


EDW: This is a fashion-based school. Can you tell me how fashion has been a tool of resistance to this community? 


Tammi: I think the keffiyeh in itself, students wearing that constantly around the campus is powerful. We’ve had several people come up to us saying, “Why are you wearing that? Do you know what that means?” And it’s like we do actually! I think the keffiyeh has become a symbol of resistance that people are tying into their outfits and how they represent themselves. I’m actually not a fashion student here, I study interior design. (laughs) So I can’t speak too much on it, except that I think art and fashion are meant to be statements. And I think these statements are almost always fueled by global politics and everything that’s happening in the world. Some of the best art comes out of people’s expression for liberation. 


EDW: Have you seen counter-protesters here? 


Tammi: We’ve had groups of counter-protesters. They were pouring water all over the chalk art and attempting to smudge it out, but everything was still legible, and they didn’t mess anything up. We haven’t had many violent counter-protesters though. We’ve been dealing with it properly with no acknowledgment, not engaging with them at all, because all they want is attention. They just want to trigger people.


EDW: I’m sure you’ve seen the videos of anti-Palestinian media coming in and trying to talk to media liaisons and protesters subsequently ignoring them. That’s garnered a lot of attention on social media, is that your plan if agitators come in?


Tammi: Yeah, one of our camp guidelines is that you can’t engage at all with counter-protesters, and in terms of media they usually just get redirected to me or another media liaison. For the most part, I will say all the press that’s been here has been pretty pro-Palestine. There are a lot of leftist outlets so we haven’t had too much of an issue with that. We initially did when our encampment was inside the museum, we had obvious right-wing newspeople come and we were just like, we’re not gonna talk to you. Sorry. You can take your video if you want and step back and leave.


EDW: Tell me about your professors, have they been supportive?


Tammi: So far my professors don’t speak on it. Last semester, when October 7th happened, I received three emails coming through professors and only one of them actually said the word Palestine. I know other people’s professors have been silently supporting the protestors and others have been very openly Zionist and racist toward Arab people; it’s a mixed bag. We have one professor we connect with a lot. A lot of our organizers have been to the different encampments and we were at Columbia a lot and we would run into that professor. She’s super awesome. She does have ties to JVP [Jewish Voice for Peace] and she’s always helping us out.


EDW: Does it scare you knowing that other universities have recently arrested the students in their encampments?


Tammi: Yeah, we’ve been pretty vigilant about that. We had a conversation with some people who were at CCNY recently, and they were emphasizing that we’re going to get a lot of attention. But it’s beautiful to see the entire city rally together and come out and support us. So I don’t think we’re necessarily too worried. We know what we’re here to do and we’re going to be here until that happens regardless of anyone that comes and tries to shut this down.


EDW: All right. Thank you so much. 


Tammi: Thank you. It means a lot to us for you guys to come here.

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