Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 13, 2023

'Race, Liberation and Palestine' Rutgers Refuses to Shut Down Event after Congressman's Demand

'Race, Liberation and Palestine' Rutgers Refuses to Shut Down Event after Congressman's Demand

'Race, Liberation and Palestine' Rutgers Refuses to Shut Down Event after Congressman's Demand

By Brenda Norrell, Censored News, Dec. 8, 2023

Update Dec. 13, 2023
Rutgers University has suspended Students for Justice in Palestine, after the Biden administration announced a civil rights investigation. The U.S. Office of Civil Rights has now published a list of schools 'under investigation.'

Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers responded and said it was censorship aimed at silencing voices for Palestine. "This attempt to conflate protected speech with violence is dangerous," said the student group Wednesday. "The administration’s letter contributes to the perception of Arab and Palestinian students on campus as terrorist threats, a racist and unacceptable caricature. These allegations lodged against our group, with no due process, are attempts to silence Palestinian voices." Read the statement here.

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey -- The threats, pressure from a U.S. Congressman, and 12,000 e-mails, didn't shut down the event, "Race, Liberation and Palestine," at Rutgers University.

Nick Estes, Lakota, Lower Brule in South Dakota, said the U.S. had more than 400 federal institutions dedicated to removing Native children from their families, all across the United States, and in Alaska and the Pacific.

Look at the headstones at Carlisle Barracks, where there are more than 200 headstones, Estes said.

"Those are Native children who died at that school. Half of the class of 1879 died at this school."

"What kind of school kills half of its class," Estes said of the military installation turned into a boarding school in Pennsylvania.

"We have our own concept of what genocide is. It is about severing relations."

"Why else would you kill children, except to take away and steal the future."

A Congressman was among those applying pressure to shut down the university event. U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. 5th District, objected to two of three speakers scheduled to speak at an event late Thursday afternoon on the New Brunswick campus. Rutgers refused to shut it down after the Congressman targeted Nick Estes and former CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill.

Rutgers Professor Brittney Cooper begins the program by speaking on grief. She speaks on rising above personal grief, and remembering, "We are still here." Cooper is a tenured professor of Women and Gender Studies, author, professor, activist, and cultural critic.

Moderator Sylvia Chan-Malik begins with the words of Angela Davis.

"Genocide is not possible without racism," said Rutgers Professor Noura Erakat, who  describes the mass murder of children in Gaza and the widespread effort to make Palestinians "invisible."

Erakat also describes the lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights charging President Biden for his role in genocide in Palestine.

"Now, they are targeting the very places that they told the people to evacuate to," Erakat said.

"They are arriving with their family members' body parts in bags."

Professor and author Marc Lamont Hill said, "This is not about eliminating Hamas, it is about ethnic cleansing."

"It is genocide."

Hill described the atrocity of premature babies in Gaza being denied electricity for their incubators.

"This is a moral atrocity."

Oceti Sakowin Camp
Standing Rock 2016

Estes described the movement at Standing Rock resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline.  He shared his time of building a cook shack at Standing Rock, and the movement on the ground, which created new friendships with Palestinians.

Within the leaks of TigerSwan, it was obvious that the solidarity with Palestine and black activists was documented. They suggested that the chemical agent "skunk spray" be used on water protectors, Estes said.

"They used something else, they used urine."

When law enforcement raided the 1851 Treaty Camp at Standing Rock, they seized the Eagle Staffs, Ceremonial items, clothes and tipis.

"Before they returned them, they urinated on them," Estes said, pointing out that he stated this in federal court after responding to a subpoena.

"It was that level of hatred that was happening there."

Settler colonialism is not just a thing of the past, Estes said, describing how his homeland was used for capital for Rutgers University.

"Your university has land grants in my territory, Oceti Sakowin territory, that was granted to this university to be sold as capital to go into your capital funds at the expense of my people, not only being removed from that land, but being genocided from that land. That was in 1862. Two hundred and eight thousand acres of territory -- that's twice the size of my reservation."

Estes said the website reveals where universities have land grants.

The speakers urged looking beyond the education offered in classrooms and engaging in the movements -- citing the words and works of Malcolm X, Black Lives Matter, the Red Power Movement, and AIM -- and deep study.

Beyond universities, U.S. Congressmen offer less distinction as leaders, speakers said.

"All of the Native elected officials in Congress right now are not just kind-of Zionists -- they are very Zionists," Estes said, adding that they have distorted "our own identity" in the liberation movement.

The event was on Day 62 of the murder of Palestinians.

Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania 1869

About the speakers

Nick Estes, Lakota, Lower Brule, South Dakota, is an award-winning author, co-founder of The Red Nation, and professor at the University of Minnesota. Estes was among the voices at the forefront at Standing Rock, in the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Marc Lamont Hill is the host of Al Jazeera UpFront and other programs, an award-winning journalist and author of eight books. Hill is a presidential professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney, author, and associate professor of Africana Studies and the Program of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

Read more about the speakers

Read more at Rutgers Student Newspaper The Daily Targum:

University President Jonathan Holloway said in a Board of Trustees meeting earlier on Thursday that his administration received more than 12,000 emails during 10 days in response to the speaker series.

Chan-Malik said this specific seminar was a part of a larger project that was created by the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Faculty Caucus after the killing of George Floyd in 2020.

Rutgers' response to pressure to shut down the event:

“This is an academic seminar supported by Mellon Foundation funding. Rutgers University has a longstanding policy protecting academic freedom, which allows our faculty members, in the discharge of their duties and within the bounds of the law and university policy, to express their ideas and to challenge the ideas of others without fear of retribution. This includes the expression of viewpoints that others within the university community may not share and, in fact, may vigorously oppose - as many do in this case. Rutgers is a community of diverse ideas; we value academic freedom’s protections that allow our faculty and invited guest lecturers to state their views and engage in lively discourse,” according to a statement from a Rutgers spokesperson.

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