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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Dartmouth New Deal Coalition holds “Divest Don’t Arrest Rally” following end of hunger strike

The 12-day hunger strike resulted in the College addressing some of the strikers’ demands.

At 1 p.m. on March 1, the Dartmouth New Deal Coalition held the “Divest Don’t Arrest Rally” in front of Parkhurst. The rally, which around 40 members of the community attended, was held just hours after Dean of the College Scott Brown sent out a campus-wide email announcing that the two remaining hunger strikers had agreed to end their strike. The email also acknowledged some of the strikers’ demands, including divestment, which they enumerated in a letter they delivered to a member of the College administration at the beginning of their strike.

At the rally, students and a few faculty stood with signs reading “Free Palestine” and “Ceasefire Now.” They also repeatedly chanted “Beilock, Beilock, you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Multiple students then spoke to the crowd. Calvin George ’24, one of the eight hunger strikers, addressed Brown’s email and said that it had “been a long two weeks, but make no mistake, this strike was not in vain.”

“The College finally admitted that Roan [V. Wade ’25] and Kevin [Engel ’27] are non-violent,” George said to the crowd. “They, for the first time, acknowledged the Palestinian community on our campus. And they have taken the very first step of a long process towards divestment.” 

Engel and Wade are currently facing misdemeanor counts of trespassing that they received while protesting in front of Parkhurst Hall in October 2023. They appeared in court on Feb. 26. During the rally, Wade said that the next court day will be in May. 

In his email, Brown wrote that “the bar is high” for divestment, and that “Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees has specific criteria that must be met before it can consider a [divestment] proposal.” Brown also wrote that Josh Keniston, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility — the committee that would evaluate divestment proposals — would meet with the Dartmouth New Deal Coalition on a termly basis. 

While George stated that the steps the College had made were “progress,” he also emphasized that “the fight is not over.”

“The charges haven’t been dropped, we haven’t divested yet and Raytheon still recruits Dartmouth engineers to make bombs,” he said. “So, let this not be the end of change, but the very beginning.”

Raytheon, now called RTX Corporations, is an American defense contractor company. 

Wade later spoke to the crowd, stating that “the victories that we were able to get out of this shows the power that collective action can have.”

While Wade acknowledged that the crowd should “take this moment to celebrate for what we’ve achieved,” Wade also said that they were disappointed in what it took to get a statement from the administration.

“We had to put ourselves on death’s door to get that concession [from the administration],” Wade said.

In an interview with The Dartmouth before the rally, Wade, who was one of the two remaining hunger strikers, stated that they had some health concerns after ending their hunger strike and planned to check into the emergency room after the rally “to undergo a full screening.” Wade stated that they have health issues and had been warned by their doctor that they could be at risk of death from hunger striking.

In an interview with The Dartmouth after the rally, Engel noted the length of the hunger strike — at 12 days  — was able to get the administration to acknowledge their demands. 

“It’s crazy that it took 12 days of students starving for the administration to actually care to meet with us,” Engel said.

Brown, Provost David Kotz ’86 and Vice President for Government and Community Relations Emma Wolfe met with the eight hunger strikers on Feb. 23, according to previous reporting from The Dartmouth. 

According to Wade, early discussions with the administration were “not constructive” and that it was “a lot of talking in circles.”

“As soon as we demonstrated that we were willing to keep going for as long as it takes, into week two, we saw an immediate tone shift,” Wade said.

Engel stated that “fruitful conversations” with the administration occurred as a result of help from faculty and members of Dartmouth Student Government. He specifically mentioned conversations with Wolfe.

“It wasn’t until my life was literally at risk that we finally got the bare minimum concessions from the College,” Wade added. 

Towards the end of the rally, Wade and Paul Yang ’23, the remaining two hunger strikers, ate pieces of watermelon, marking the first time either of them had eaten in 12 days. 

According to The Dartmouth’s past coverage, watermelon is a symbolic food because it contains the colors of the Palestinian flag and is a fruit native to Palestine. 

When asked what the end goal of their pro-Palestine activism is, both Wade and Engel agreed that it is divestment.

“We don’t plan on stopping until we get divestment,” Wade said. “This will be an ongoing struggle.”