Student protesters demanding that Cal State Long Beach officially adopt a “Sanctuary” campus status marched to and delivered a set of demands to President Jane Close Conoley at Brotman Hall just before 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
The students originally gathered by the Prospector Pete statue on upper campus at 1 p.m. where they rallied a crowd with chants and speeches about making CSULB a sanctuary campus. The group, primarily led by Sandra Ocampo and Esmerelda Antonakakis with the campus organization La Raza Student Association, grew to around 20 members before they marched to the President’s office.
At one point, campus police officers asked them to refrain from using their bullhorn after receiving a noise complaint from faculty members located in Peterson Hall 1.
“I was cool with it,” said University Police Department officer Vergal Munoz Jr. “It’s the faculty that’s complaining. I don’t care. They can talk all they want.”
The students then marched to Brotman Hall’s top floor on lower campus to chants of “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all!” and “Education, not deportation!”
Outside of President Conoley’s office at Brotman Hall, Antonakakis delivered a series of demands to the president.
“We are present with fellow students, faculty, alumni, staff and community members to present our demands to make our campus a sanctuary campus for all,” said Antonakakis.
In addition to suspending communication or cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the list of demands included that CSULB officially designate the college a “safe zone,” hire a new director and employees for the DREAM resource center and provide legal counsel for undocumented students on campus. Other demands on the list included that CSULB divest from various business firms that are linked to Israel, prevent ICE and the Department of Homeland Security from being allowed at campus career fairs and to “demilitarize” campus police by removing assault rifles and riot gear from the UPD armory.
Antonakakis gave Conoley until May 17 to respond to the demands and a year to see that progress was made toward them. After the demands were issued, several members of the protesting group spoke to Conoley about grievances they had with CSULB and Conoley.
“I am graduating this spring, but I cannot say that it was because of the help that I received here at Cal State Long Beach,” said Erika Suarez, an anthropology student. “I’ve had to organize, I’ve had to take time off of my classes and have had several different emotional meltdowns because of the amount of stress that is put on the backs of students. I am scared to come to campus because of a lot of racist events that are happening on campus.”
Suarez said that she had been assaulted by a conservative faculty member at a prior march she had participated in on campus.
“He grabbed me, shook me and said ‘we did not do this when Obama got elected,’” Suarez said. “So these are your faculty, these are the people that are in the university, and we’re scared.”
Members of the Muslim Student Association also questioned why Conoley had not issued a timely warning after a vandalism incident in April that threatened Muslim students was discovered. After the demands, Conoley asked if the three women she had originally planned to meet still wanted to attend their scheduled 2 o’clock meeting. The protesters responded with “this was our meeting,” before leaving Brotman Hall. La Raza Student Association declined to speak to the Daily 49er after the march.
Conoley spoke to the Daily 49er after the protesters left, and tried to address many of the issues they had brought up. Conoley said she had been expecting a prearranged private meeting with three of the protestors and expressed surprise by the list of demands.
“There was a meeting with the Muslim Student Association and the chief of police, the dean of students and the associate dean of students just this past monday to talk them through that issue of ‘did we give a timely warning?’ when we found the graffiti,” Conoley said. Conoley stated that administrators had contacted the FBI and several local police departments over the graffiti, who advised her that it did not rise to the level of a credible threat.
Conoley also addressed the issue of cooperation with ICE and said that CSULB was following a directive from the Chancellor’s Office to not officially state that the college would be a “sanctuary campus,” but would operate as one in all but name.
“We’ve been told specifically to do what sanctuaries do, but not use the term for fear of retaliation from the federal government,” Conoley said. “The reason we don’t talk so openly about them is that we don’t want to bring the wrath from the Trump administration on us. I know that’s unsatisfying, but a long time ago I learned there’s some wisdom in discretion. Going up and poking my finger in President Trump’s eye doesn’t seem wise when 56 percent of our students have federal aid packages.”
Conoley claimed that there was a large amount of support for undocumented students amongst administrators. She also stated that of the many activities that students did not often see, that the school had purged all official records of any mark that could identify a student as undocumented, while stating that invitations of ICE and DHS to career fairs was done by student groups in the criminology department whose rights she could not infringe.
Conoley also expressed hope that students and faculty on either side of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions issue could find common ground and discuss things civilly.
“It’s such a complicated issue because we all want our students to be connected and understand the political realities that surround them,”said Conoley. “I think some of the students they speak from their hearts and they want somebody to do something. If I could wave a magic wand and have a different outcome to an election, certainly, I’d do that. I can act only within the constraints I have.”