Protesters occupy building at Rhode Island School of Design

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Protesters occupy building at Rhode Island School of Design
File photo of the museum at the Rhode Island School of Design, designed by Rafael Moneo and built during Roger Mandle’s 15-year tenure as president, on Aug. 14, 2008. (Erik Jacobs/The New York Times)

by Yan Zhuang

NEW YORK, NY.- Pro-Palestinian protesters barricaded themselves inside the main administrative building at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, on Monday night, protest organizers said. The school said its president and provost were meeting with the demonstrators.

Twenty-four protesters, including students at the private art and design school, began a sit-in inside the building Monday morning, according to a statement from the organizers, RISD Students for Justice in Palestine. Just before 7 p.m., they occupied the second floor of the building and set up barricades, the statement said.

A livestream by the organizers showed protesters gathered in a corridor on the second floor of the building, chanting “Free, free Palestine,” as security guards inside a room appeared to prevent them from entering it. Videos showed other protesters gathered outside the building.

The developments escalated a protest that has been held outside the building, 20 Washington Place, since last Wednesday, and added to the short list of school buildings that have been occupied by activists protesting Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip. Last week, police officers ended occupations of buildings at Columbia University and Cal Poly Humboldt, clearing the buildings and arresting dozens of people.

The building at 20 Washington Place contains the offices of the Rhode Island school’s top officials and its administrative and financial services.

The school’s president, Crystal Williams, and its provost, Touba Ghadessi, were at the building meeting with students involved in the protest, Jaime Marland, RISD’s senior director of public relations, said in an email about 10 p.m. “We have and continue to affirm our students’ right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and peaceful assembly,” she added.

The protesters’ demands included that the school divest from investments that benefit Israel and that the school’s president “publicly condemns the Israeli occupation of Gaza as a genocide,” the organizers’ statement said.

The protesters declared that they had renamed the building Fathi Ghaben Place, after a Palestinian artist who died in Gaza in February. Palestinian officials have said that Ghaben was not allowed to leave Gaza to seek medical care.

A Providence Police Department spokesperson said that the school had not requested police assistance, although police were “aware of the protest.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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