Apr 30, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Latino students are key part of pro-Palestine encampment protests

Students rest at a Gaza solidarity camp at UCLA in Los Angeles on April 27, 2024.

A sign showing solidarity from Latinas is shown as an anti-war Gaza solidarity camp at UCLA in Los Angeles on April 27, 2024. Photo: Grace Hie Yoon/Anadolu via Getty Images

Latinos are a key part of a multi-ethnic coalition of students spearheading college demonstrations and encampments calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and divestment in Israel.

The big picture: As college campuses have become more diverse, Latinos are part of a new generation of student activists who identify with the Palestinian struggle.

Catch up quick: The protests over the treatment of Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas war have spread since a demonstration at Columbia University drew international attention.

State of play: The population of Arab American students is small, and they need a coalition of diverse students to bring attention to the war in Gaza on campuses, James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, tells Axios.

  • Latino students are a crucial part of that coalition, Zogby said.
  • "They're part of a global community of people who've experienced America in different ways. That's really quite significant and isn't going away."

What they're saying: Andre Montoya-Barthelemy, a faculty member at the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine, tells Axios that some Latino and Native American students see their own stories as similar to that of the Palestinians.

  • "The organizers perhaps who feel most passionate about this issue of Palestine ... is much closer for people of color and historically marginalized and oppressed populations," Montoya-Barthelemy said while at an encampment at his school.
  • Warren David, co-founder of the Arab America Foundation and the creator of Arab American Heritage Month, said the multi-ethnic coalition of students helped shape the demands at various campuses.

Zoom out: The demands of those in campus encampments are similar.

  • They want their universities to divest from companies with links to Israel.
  • They are demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
  • They want no restrictions on protests seeking to bring attention to the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed in Gaza since the conflict began.
  • Others want suspended students reinstated, more protections for Black and Latino students, and to end study abroad programs in Israel.

The other side: U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), the son of Puerto Rican parents, has been outspoken about the protests, which he says makes Jewish students fearful because of antisemitism.

  • He and U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) have introduced a bill that would empower the U.S. Department of Education to impose a third-party antisemitism monitor on any college receiving federal funding.
  • "Campus antisemitism is at an all-time high, and American universities are not capable of handling it when left to their own devices," Torres said in a statement.

Subscribe to Axios Latino to get vital news about Latinos and Latin America, delivered to your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Go deeper