CMU is site of another anti-Israel rally
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Conflation on campusProtestors twist together CMU research and Israel's defense

CMU is site of another anti-Israel rally

University students chant “CMU, try and hide, we won’t work for genocide,” “Free, free Palestine,” and “My work, not for war. My city, not for war."

CMU students held a rally protesting funding the university receives from the Department of Defense and Israel's war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. (Photo by David Rullo)
CMU students held a rally protesting funding the university receives from the Department of Defense and Israel's war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. (Photo by David Rullo)

Carnegie Mellon University’s “Walking to the Sky” sculpture was once again the site of a protest rally with antisemitic themes on Feb. 2.
The “No Tech for Apartheid Rally for Palestine” conflated Israel’s war with Hamas and the university’s relationship with the Department of Defense and some corporations, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The rally’s emcee, “Daria” from the group Against Carceral Tech, claimed many of those companies “literally made missiles that killed civilians.”

The event was hosted by CMU Students for Palestine, Against Carceral Tech, CMU Salsa, CMU Middle Eastern and North African Student Association, Jewish Voice for Peace Pittsburgh and Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Pittsburgh, according to materials posted online.
More than 100 people attended the late Friday afternoon rally, including a mix of sponsors and organizers, students, alumni and outside community members.

As organizers set up a table with face masks and a flyer about the event that included various chants, several students arrived with large red balloons that, when launched into the sky, had orange letters attached that spelled out “No tech for apartheid.”

Protestors released balloons attached to large orange letters spelling out “No tech for apartheid. (Photo by David Rullo)

While the rally was more lightly attended than others in recent weeks, police were already in place more than a half-hour before its start, taking positions around the field where the sculpture is located.

Students were urged — both in social media posts and by the event organizers — to wear nondescript, solid-color clothes, masks and keffiyehs, suggestions followed by many in attendance. Attendees were also advised to turn off their phone location, face and fingerprint IDs, to not take photos that included people’s faces, and to not talk to the media or police without a lawyer present.

After leading the crowd in chants that included “CMU, try and hide, we won’t work for genocide,” “Free, free Palestine,” and “My work, not for war. My city, not for war,” Daria said that there had been crackdowns on college campuses across the country on those participating in pro-Palestinian protests. She said New York University students were disciplined for writing “Free Palestine” on a chalkboard, and that at Columbia University student protesters were sprayed with “a military-grade chemical weapon.”

“We’ve also seen something similar happen on CMU’s campus,” she alleged. “I’m not going to delve into it right now for the privacy of people involved.”

After the initial chants and introductory remarks, Daria said that she was a CMU alum and that the group she represented was working to ensure “the labor of our students, researchers and workers should not go into war and supporting genocide.”

CMU, she claimed, has been part of the “military-industrial complex” since the university’s earliest days.

She claimed that 50% of all research funding the university receives comes from the Department of Defense, and that “half the research on campus can be used to make weapons.”

CMU, she continued, has been expanding — buying property in Oakland, Hazelwood and Lawrenceville.

“Most of the places being bought are being used for defense contracts,” she charged.

Referencing an article in the left-leaning +972 Magazine, she claimed that Israel uses AI to conduct bombing in the Palestinian territories.

“We’re concerned that the next tool like this that has now killed 25,000-plus people, for God-knows-what reason, could be invented by a CMU student with no thought or regard to what that means,” Daria said. She did not mention Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel and the 1,200 people killed in that attack, nor the hostages still held by the terrorist organization in Gaza.

CMU, Daria said, was in effect, an arm of the U.S. military, which “serves to topple democratic regimes like that of the country my family comes from, Iran.”

Against Carceral Tech had three demands, she said:
“Number 1, that Carnegie Mellon sever its extensive ties with the U.S. military and contractors and deny all of their presence on campus, entirely.

“Number 2, we want to cancel institutional partnerships. Right now, CMU has a partnership with Raytheon. Right now, Raytheon has given CMU — it’s not that much — $35,000 to help better security. I don’t know, they might know a lot about security, but I don’t want to learn from a f—king war criminal.

“Our final demand is for CMU to be transparent to the student body by revealing annually — that means every single year — the sources of its endowment and where it invests those endowments. We also want them to publish an annual report of sponsored research activity.”

This, Daria said, will help students think critically about how their labor and research are used. She urged students to withhold their labor and research from companies “complicit in the evil of militarism, including Israeli apartheid and occupation, ethnic cleansing and the genocide of the Palestinian people and their culture.”

Jewish Voice for Peace organizer and former CMU graduate student “Adona” next addressed those in attendance.

Citing figures from Oxfam, a British confederation of 21 independent charitable organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty, Adona called the war in Gaza “the deadliest in the 21st century.”

“Israel is killing 250 Palestinians every single day,” she claimed.

She took issue with Israel’s use of AI to identify targets in Gaza. She said that CMU research for the military may end up being shared with Israel.

Adona ended her speech by saying “No technology for apartheid. Free Gaza.”

A representative from CMU Students for Palestine addressed the crowd, saying that “more than 27,131 Palestinian citizens have been murdered by the Israel Occupation Forces; 66,287 have been wounded and over 10,000 of those murdered by the IOF were children.”

She claimed that Israel committed war crimes both before and after Oct. 7.

“Since the beginning of the colonial state that is Israel in 1948, Palestinians have been ethnically cleansed and expelled,” she said.

The speaker echoed the claims about CMU’s research and technology made by the other speakers.

“Steph” from the Pittsburgh BDS Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation next took the mic, calling for companies, universities and other organizations to stop supporting Israel.

Without mentioning Hamas, the terrorist attack of Oct. 7 or the hostages, a representative from the Students for Palestine Solidarity Committee addressed the crowd, claiming the Israeli government is racist, bigoted and destructive “to another group simply because of the color of their skin, because they think differently, how they behave and their culture. So, they’re trying to take their land and take what they need to survive.”

Because the event was organized by two recognized student organizations, CMU had no issues with permitting the rally, the university’s Director of Media Relations Peter Kerwin said. CMU’s student affairs office and university police communicated with those groups before the event.
“The groups followed university procedures to hold the event,” Kerwin said. “Campus police, city police and other safety personnel were on site to support the safety of participants and others on campus.”

The university, he noted, is a global leader in research areas critical to national defense and security.

“Our faculty and graduate students choose to conduct work focused on protecting the lives of military personnel and civilians through the latest technologies,” he said. “Most of our foundational research partnerships through technologies, such as artificial intelligence, are creating and leveraging tools that take our military personnel out of harm’s way.”

The university did not respond to Daria’s claims that CMU students were disciplined for their support of Palestinians. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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