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Stanford students erect encampment to protest Israel's attacks on Gaza, demand university divestment

Pro-Palestinian protesters at Stanford confronted by Jewish parent
Pro-Palestinian protesters at Stanford confronted by Jewish parent 04:56

Students at Stanford University have joined the national wave of protests on the war in Gaza on college campuses. 

Hundreds of students set up an encampment on White Plaza Thursday night with tents and signs that read "Divest now" and "Hands off Rafah," with some students remaining there overnight. Protesters said they plan to stay until the university meets their demands.

Stanford sent out a mass email to its student body informing them the actions were in violation of university policy that could lead suspension or expulsion.

"While Stanford understands students' perspectives on an important global issue, violations of university policy will not be overlooked," the statement read. "The submission of student names to the Office of Community Standards student conduct process has begun."

The statement also said that non-student visitors at the campus protest who violate university policy could be subject to criminal and/or civil liability.

The full statement shared with students is available on the Stanford University website.

CBS News Bay Area talked to student protester Carlos Enrique Ramirez, who said he is risking a lot for a cause he sees as bigger than himself.

"Say I were to get arrested, or say I were to be expelled or suspended from this school; that would deeply impact me and my family. 'Cause I, like, support them with the money that I get from here," said Ramirez. "And, understanding that, I weighed the personal consequences and my own personal beliefs and felt so compelled to do what I can to be out here."

Stanford Student Mahina Kaomea also spent her Friday among the tarps and tents pitched in the center of campus.

"We are planning to stay here to insist that the university discloses and divests from occupied Palestine," said Kaomea. "And I think so many of us are willing to be here for as long as is necessary for the university to hear us."

 Kaomea said Stanford students want the administration to know they have a stake in this conflict and will use their voices to try and create change.

"I think that we have a very unique responsibility, because we're the ones who will inherit the future of the earth," she explained.

But Mahina and her classmates weren't the only ones with strong opinions on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

At one point Friday, emotions flared when a parent confronted the protesters.

That parent was Shahar Sehati, a Jewish father who was on campus with his daughter who is slated to start at Stanford in the fall.

Sehati fled his home country of Iran as a child to Israel and lived there for years. He said seeing the encampment in the middle of the university was just too much for him.

"I couldn't resist it anymore. I had to open my mouth and try to understand what's going on here," said Sehati. "They are brainwashing people in Stanford? They have to be the smartest kids in the world. They should do the research on their own, not to listen to a bunch of lies that these people are creating here."

But Kaomea and her fellow protesters are standing by their opinions. They say they will continue to occupy the center of campus until the administration meets their demands… despite any consequences that may come.

"The bigger risk is to stay silent. The bigger risk is to be complicit in the university's investments and deep military violence," said Kaomea. " So I think we're willing to take that risk and we're willing to stay here for as long as possible to really change their minds and to hold space for awareness about this."

Meanwhile students at UC Berkeley entered day four of their encampment in front of Sproul Hall. They demand the university name Israel's actions in Gaza as "genocide" and cut all corporate ties with the country.

As other campuses across the country see arrests by police, some are wondering why police have not moved in on the protests on Bay Area campuses.

Cal released a statement saying they will not involve law enforcement unless it is absolutely necessary to protect the physical safety of the campus community because of its past experience with nonviolent political protest.

Governor Gavin Newsom said he's also monitoring the campus demonstrations and is working with university trustees to make sure they remain peaceful. 

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