New York City demonstrators gathered outside the Best Buy electronics store in Union Square on Friday, 28 April to stand in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and demand an end to HP’s corporate complicity in the Israeli imprisonment and oppression of Palestinians.
Organized by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, the protesters held signs, distributed flyers and leaflets and chanted about the struggle of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. They also highlighted the role of Hewlett-Packard (HP) in contracting with Israeli apartheid institutions, from the Israel Prison Service, where it provides the technology for databases on Palestinian prisoners, to Israeli checkpoints, the apartheid wall, and even the Erez/Beit Hanoun crossing, where HP technology helps to maintain the siege on Gaza. As part of the international campaign to boycott HP products until the corporation stops its profiteering from apartheid and colonialism, protesters urged Best Buy customers to steer clear of HP products in the interests of Palestinian rights and freedom.
People on the street and in Union Square engaged in discussion with protesters, including Irish and Puerto Rican passers-by who shared information about their own anti-colonial movements and the role of political prisoners in the Irish and Puerto Rican struggles for liberation.
Participants in the protest highlighted the struggle of Palestinian prisoners, 1500 of whom launched a hunger strike, called the Strike for Freedom and Dignity, on 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. The strikers have a series of basic demands for justice, including an end to the denial of family visits, appropriate medical care and treatment for ill prisoners, the right to education and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.
Participants in the protest included activists with a number of organizations in New York City, including Fordham Students for Justice in Palestine. Fordham students are currently suing the university after they were prohibited from organizing their SJP on campus despite years of applications and an approval by the university’s student government association. The application was then, in an unprecedented step, overturned and denied by Fordham Dean of Students Keith Eldredge. Represented by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights, Fordham students are arguing that the denial is an unjust and unlawful form of discrimination that violates Fordham’s own policies and commitments to its students. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expressed its solidarity with the Fordham students and support for their struggle for justice in the courtroom, on the campus and in the streets.
In addition, student labor activists – many of whom are also involved in the movement for justice in Palestine – at Fordham University are also facing severe and potentially unprecedented repression. Participants in a peaceful demonstration to support the contingent faculty union on 27 April, who were assaulted by Fordham Public Safety, then received an email temporarily banning them from campus, including students who live in dorm housing, and threatening them with disciplinary action. This happened despite the students not being officially charged with any violation of policy on campus. The administration is using severe “interim measures” ostensibly intended to protect the campus from serious threats of violence to instead penalize people for allegedly participating in a peaceful protest without advance permission from the administration.
Samidoun and other New York City Palestine groups, including NYC Students for Justice in Palestine and the NY4Palestine Coalition, will participate in May Day events taking place in the city, including a Palestine Contingent that will gather at 3 pm in Union Square. Before the Union Square rally, Palestine activists will also take part in the Immigrant Worker Justice Tour beginning in Washington Square Park at 12:30 pm.