A Small Campus in the Redwoods Has the Nation’s Most Entrenched Protest

When university administrators across the nation worry about the potential fallout from campus protests, they may have Siemens Hall in mind.

The building at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, includes the campus president’s office and has been occupied for a week by pro-Palestinian protesters who barricaded themselves inside and fought off an early attempt by the police to remove them. Protesters have since tagged walls and renamed it “Intifada Hall” by ripping off most of the signage on the brick exterior.

Inside, they painted graffiti messages like “Time 2 Free Gaza,” “Pigs Not Allowed,” and “Land Back,” according to a video posted by the local news site Redheaded Blackbelt. They occupied and defaced the office of the president, Tom Jackson Jr., spraying “Blood On Your Hands” across one framed wall hanging and “I Will Live Free or Die Trying” on his door.

The school, situated more than 275 miles north of San Francisco among the ancient coastal redwoods that drip with fog mist, is the site of the nation’s most entrenched campus protest. It has gone well beyond the encampments on student quads elsewhere; at Cal Poly Humboldt, protesters took over the power center of the campus and have rejected increasingly desperate entreaties from officials for them to vacate the premises.

The university has shut down the entire campus, first for a couple days, then a week and now through May 10, one day before its scheduled commencement. After the Siemens Hall takeover, protesters set up dozens of tents on patches of grass around the hall, and demonstrators took over a second building to use its bathrooms and hold meetings. University officials estimate the damage to be in the millions of dollars.

To those outside Northern California, the show of force at Cal Poly Humboldt, in the college town of Arcata, has been a surprising turn in a region more typically associated with a hippie pacifism and marijuana farms. But beneath the good-vibes image, locals say, a culture of protest and resentment toward authority has percolated at the 6,000-student campus.

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