Giri Viswanathan, Senior Photographer

In April 2024, pro-Palestine Yalies took en masse to the University public spaces in dramatic protests against Yale’s investments in military weapons manufacturers, especially investments related to Israel’s war in Gaza.

Student organizers continued divestment advocacy in the spring 2024 in light of the Israel-Hamas war, demanding that the University disclose its investments and divest from holdings in military weapons manufacturers. The monthslong advocacy campaign escalated the week of the Yale Corporation’s last meeting of the academic term, as 14 students went on hunger strike and hundreds gathered for daily protests, first on Beinecke Plaza and then on Cross Campus, resulting in over 50 arrests.

On April 17, the University announced that the Corporation would not divest from military weapons manufacturers. By the end of the semester, after the university cleared two protest encampments, protests had largely died down. 

Divestment movement builds up over semester

According to the News’ analysis, there is evidence that Yale invests at least $110,000 in military weapons manufacturers. However, because the University publicly discloses less than 0.3 percent of its $40.7 billion endowment investments, the full extent to which the University has financial holdings tied to weapons manufacturers remains unclear. 

The spring semester saw the divestment movement gain particular momentum. On Feb. 16, the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition led a protest with over 200 participants as Yale Corporation convened for its first meeting of the year. 

Naina Agrawal-Hardin ’25, an organizer for EJC, emphasized the “unprecedented” scale of support among various groups for the protest. At least 29 other organizations across Yale, New Haven and Connecticut signed onto the EJC’s demands.

The EJC continued its advocacy on April 8, when organizers hosted a town hall for students and New Haven residents to express dissent against Yale’s investments. In the weeks leading up to the event, organizers invited Yale trustees to attend, but no trustee responded to the invitations or attended the town hall.

Students stage hunger strike in support of Palestine

On April 10, at least 12 graduate students and 2 undergraduates sent a letter to Yale President Peter Salovey threatening to begin a hunger strike if the University did not publish a statement by the morning of April 12 committing to divest from weapons manufacturers “contributing to Israel’s assault on Palestine.” 

By April 12, the University had not published any statements related to the letter, and student organizers began striking the next day

On the fourth day of the strike, strikers described the physical tolls of their fast, including migraines, diarrhea and difficulty sleeping. However, that day an anonymous striker also expressed that these symptoms did not deter the strikers from continuing their demands.

The strike ended on its eighth day as strikers pointed to mounting health concerns and the Corporation’s lack of response to their dissent. 

Bookshelves and sit-ins on Beinecke Plaza

On April 15, a coalition of pro-Palestine students installed a pop-up library and held a sit-in protest on Beinecke Plaza near the entrance to the Schwarzman Center. After about an hour, University officials disassembled the structure as protesters announced their intent to engage in a “sustained occupation” of the plaza to demand divestment. 

As University administrators forced protesters to disperse under threat of police citation by around 11 p.m. that day, protesters continued to gather on the plaza from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. 

The protests in Beinecke Plaza started just under a week before the Yale Corporation’s last meeting of the academic term on April 20. The protests also coincided with Bulldog Days from April 15 to 17, Yale’s three-day admitted students event. 

On April 17, the University announced that, following a review of Yale’s weapons investment policies, the Corporation would not divest from military weapons manufacturers. The decision was met with mixed reactions from students, parents and alumni. 

Protesters erect Beinecke encampment 

On April 19, pro-divestment students escalated the protest as Yale trustees and senior administrators held a celebratory dinner for Salovey at the Schwarzman Center. At peak, over 400 protesters gathered in Beinecke Plaza, with several students confronting Salovey with expletives and chants as he entered Schwarzman. 

By 8 p.m., students had erected an encampment of over 27 camping tents in the plaza. The encampment was met with increased police presence: by 10 p.m., officers emerged with riot gear, though the protests remained nonviolent throughout the night. 

On April 20, approximately 65 protesters left the encampment in Beinecke Plaza to march to the Greenberg Conference Center and confront the trustees as they had a scheduled meeting, but students ultimately missed the trustees’ exit by less than 10 minutes. Protesters then returned to Beinecke Plaza, where they maintained the encampment throughout the weekend under threats of arrest and disciplinary action. 

After failed negotiations between student protesters and the University administration, shortly after 6 a.m. on April 22, Yale Police officers arrested 48 protesters, of them 44 students, for trespassing on the plaza. The arrests marked the first time student protesters have been arrested at Yale since 2019 when 24 protesters with Students Unite Now were arrested as they blocked traffic in front of Phelps Hall to protest Yale’s financial aid policies. 

In response to the arrests, more than 250 protesters blocked the intersection of College and Grove streets for nearly nine hours. 

A second, short-lived encampment on Cross Campus

After talks between organizers and the New Haven Police Department during the intersection shutdown, protesters relocated to Cross Campus, where they continued to gather in smaller numbers throughout the week. By April 24, the organizers of the original three-night encampment passed leadership to a “broader coalition” of organizers from Yale, New Haven and Connecticut. 

Then, on April 28, the protest escalated again, with organizers erecting a second encampment of around 40 tents on Cross Campus initially blocking off the eastern and western ends of Cross Campus. Organizers called it a “liberated zone” and asked pedestrians to agree to a set of community guidelines, which included committing to Palestinian liberation, before allowing them to enter. After pushback from the University community, protesters rearranged the tents to clear the walkways.

The second encampment lasted for two nights as negotiations between protesters and administrators broke down again. After protesters voted 88 to 55 on the night of April 29 to reject an offer to meet two Yale Corporation trustees and to remain encamped, more than 50 New Haven and Yale Police officers moved to clear the encampment around 6 a.m. the next morning. All protesters in the encampment dispersed, continuing the demonstration on College Street, and no arrests were made.

More arrests as dissent continues

On the evening of May 1, around 200 protesters marched from Beinecke Plaza to Salovey’s residence on Hillhouse Avenue and then to Yale Police Department headquarters at 101 Ashmun St. before making their way to Alexander Walk. 

There, Yale Police unexpectedly and violently arrested four of the protesters — including two students — amid protesters’ confusion regarding police warnings to disperse. Photos and videos obtained by the News show Yale police roughly tackling two of the four arrested protesters.

Since then, protests have largely died down, though about two dozen students gathered on the steps of New Haven County Courthouse on May 8 to support arrested protesters as they were summoned for their arraignments. All arrestees received continuances, which delayed their arraignments to virtual proceedings in early July and in-person proceedings in late August. As of May 17, more than 11,000 letters have been sent to Yale administrators asking for protesters’ charges to be dropped. 

The Schwarzman Center, located next to Beinecke Plaza, is located at 168 Grove St.

Yolanda Wang (she/her) covers endowment, finances, and donations. She is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in political science.