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Love Letter To the Student Encampments for Palestine

Article published:
Grayscale cutout of small tents on the ground with a banner reading, "Gaza Solidarity Encamptment" across them. Background is orange with a confetti of black and white outline hearts.

The participants in the student encampments “have rejuvenated us after months of militant protest, taking bold action for our transgenerational, collective vision of liberated peoples and lands across the world.”

Dear courageous students for a free Palestine,
In Spring 1985, when UC Berkeley students pitched their tents on the steps of Sproul Plaza to demand the University of California divest from apartheid South Africa, they felt the same struggles and grappled with the same contradictions that you do today. To be real, shit gets dark when you’re in the trenches. We know you are overwhelmed and underslept. We know that connections with others can feel tenuous when we exist in a surveillance state and political battlefield. But here’s the truth: The world is shifting thanks to you. Please keep going. We got you.

As young people in this time on this Earth, you have the power and the spirit to move millions of people and win material victories. For generations, student movements have dared to face off against the Herculean power of colonial institutions and state-sponsored military force, changing the course of history. Right now you are at the frontlines of our intergenerational battle for a free Palestine—for collective liberation—yet the rest of us must also meet the moment to fortify your movement. 

In the Bay Area and in many places across Turtle Island, movement elders and experienced organizers have faced these same threats before. Students, we honor your leadership and stand ready to support you in all the ways you need, from political education to healing resources to hot meals. And across imaginary borders, even when encampments are dismantled, remember that mycelial networks stretch between every student movement—from UC Berkeley to San Francisco State University (SFSU), from UCLA to Columbia, from the University of São Paolo to the Sorbonne—to replenish resources, knowledge, and spirit.

The Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) strikes of 1968, initiated by a coalition of Black, Latinx, Chicanx, Filipinx, Native American, Chinese, and Asian American students at San Francisco State College and UC Berkeley, were among the longest student strikes in US history—and are the reason the schools have ethnic studies today. Lasting a total of five months, the San Francisco State strike was sustained because the students’ families and community members showed up day in and day out, feeding the people, providing mental health support, keeping each other safe, sharing tactics, exchanging culture, and more.

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More than 140 student encampments across Turtle Island have not only righteously demanded divestment from Israeli apartheid and freedom from political repression; they have also given communities an opportunity to practice the experiment of collective governance, rooted in true democracy, that we need in order to embody the liberatory futures we’re building. Collective governance is not the air we breathe normally, but we do have the skills to do it; in fact, we’re always doing it. In the moments when we bring our friends soup when they’re sick, or divide up our chores, or help each other problem solve when things don’t go as planned—we’re practicing collective governance. And we need to resource ourselves by reclaiming our own labor to do it at scale.

Not only do we have the lived experience of collective governance, but we also have genetic memory of it. Our ancestors practiced it long before our lands and peoples were colonized. While colonization and racial capitalism have continually tried to force us to abandon ourselves, each other, and our relationships with the lands and waters—we are still here fighting for our people and our lands after all this time. Just imagine the ancestral knowledge and intergenerational healing we’ll activate as we remember the practice of collective governance through caring for one another.

As we watch the genocide in Palestine and invasion of Rafah being livestreamed and show up week after week to mass mobilizations and direct actions, it can feel as though we are losing our minds and our spirits. Our relationships and our bodies are dysregulated and stressed to the max. But remember that we do have each other. We draw inspiration from the Muslim and Jewish and other allied students who are protecting one another and creating deep community across cultural fronts. They remind us that our target is not Jewish, Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian identity; it is the US-backed apartheid system created by Israel and the political ideology and colonial project of Zionism.

We will continue to struggle through difference, and we can do so in principled and disciplined ways. Living into the culture shift that we’re trying to move is what will actually get us to liberation. Right now, you, the students, are primed to make this shift. It will be a lifelong commitment, and a worthy one.

Back to 1985 and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa: After holding camp for six weeks, UC students won, forcing the UC system to divest $3 billion from South Africa-related stock holdings. By 1990, anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and the formal process to end apartheid began. Boycotts and divestments played a key role in advancing this victory.

Courageous students, you have rejuvenated us after months of militant protest, taking bold action for our transgenerational, collective vision of liberated peoples and lands across the world. Thank you for all the ways you are showing up. Please keep going. We got you. Palestine will be free in our lifetime.

Movement Generation

This letter is presented by Movement Generation co-founders Carla María Pérez and Mateo Nube on behalf of the MG collective.

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