Taking a stand by sitting-in: Smith College students continue to occupy College Hall

Smith College students behind a banner hung during Thursday’s rally.

Smith College students behind a banner hung during Thursday’s rally. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Smith College students during a rally after occupying College Hall as part of a protest demanding divestment from military contractors held Thursday afternoon, March 28, 2024.

Smith College students during a rally after occupying College Hall as part of a protest demanding divestment from military contractors held Thursday afternoon, March 28, 2024. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Smith College students listen to a speaker during Thursday’s rally.

Smith College students listen to a speaker during Thursday’s rally.

For the second straight  day, Smith College students occupied College Hall Thursday as part of a protest demanding divestment from weapons contractors supplying armaments for Israel’s Gaza offensive. The students are holding a daily rally.

For the second straight day, Smith College students occupied College Hall Thursday as part of a protest demanding divestment from weapons contractors supplying armaments for Israel’s Gaza offensive. The students are holding a daily rally. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

Smith College students during a rally after occupying College Hall as part of a protest demanding divestment from military contractors held Thursday afternoon, March 28, 2024.

Smith College students during a rally after occupying College Hall as part of a protest demanding divestment from military contractors held Thursday afternoon, March 28, 2024. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Smith College students during a rally after occupying College Hall as part of a protest demanding divestment from military contractors held Thursday afternoon, March 28, 2024.

Smith College students during a rally after occupying College Hall as part of a protest demanding divestment from military contractors held Thursday afternoon, March 28, 2024. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Smith College students rally outside College Hall on Thursday as part of a protest demanding divestment from weapons contractors supplying armaments for Israel’s Gaza offensive. Other students have occupied College Hall and plan to stay until their demands are met.

Smith College students rally outside College Hall on Thursday as part of a protest demanding divestment from weapons contractors supplying armaments for Israel’s Gaza offensive. Other students have occupied College Hall and plan to stay until their demands are met. STAFF PHOTOs/CAROL LOLLIS

Smith College students during a rally after occupying College Hall as part of a protest demanding divestment from military contractors held Thursday afternoon, March 28, 2024.

Smith College students during a rally after occupying College Hall as part of a protest demanding divestment from military contractors held Thursday afternoon, March 28, 2024. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 03-28-2024 5:32 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Dozens of Smith College students entered the second day of a sit-in Thursday to pressure the college to divest from companies supplying armaments for Israel’s Gaza offensive.

“The numbers are solid,” said Ruby Masters, an organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine, after spending a night with some 45 or 50 protesters inside College Hall. “Morale is high. We’re staying until they divest.”

A rally in support of the occupiers was held at 11:45 outside College Hall, and more are planned for coming days.

College spokesperson Carolyn McDaniel said officials had no further comment on the sit-in following a statement Wednesday in which they said they support and endorse freedom of thought and expression “by orderly means that do not disrupt the regular and essential operation of the institution.”

College Hall, the school’s administration building, was closed down Thursday and was expected to remain closed Friday. College staff who usually work there were working from other offices or remotely, McDaniel said.

The protest was called after Students for Justice in Palestine submitted a request to the board of trustees that the women’s college pull its investments from weapons contractors such as General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Masters said it took a significant amount of time and effort for the group to draw up its proposal. In an emailed response Tuesday, she said, the board of trustees said its Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility had determined that “the request did not meet the threshold for taking action and also found that the endowment’s investment in military contractors and weapons manufacturers is negligible and entirely indirect.”

Hundreds of supporters of the protest action occupied College Hall after a walkout Wednesday. Their numbers dwindled when most left to get supplies for an overnight stay and college officials locked the building well before its usual 5 p.m. closing time, according to Masters.

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Students reported one physical altercation between a staff member and one of the occupiers who was trying to take some food through a window. A witness, who asked not to be named, said she heard screaming and ran over to see the staff member pushing and grabbing the student while a campus security officer stood by. Asked why, the security officer said “She’s not supposed to be there,” according to the witness, while the staff member gave no response when other students appealed to him to stop.

Occupiers said they had some events planned for Thursday, including faculty coming to hold teach-ins and an “art build” to create protest art.

James Pentland can be reached at jpentland@gazettenet.com.