Divestment protesters hold sit-in on Beinecke Plaza, University takes down pop-up bookshelf The bookshelf, erected by pro-Palestine protesters, stood on the steps to Schwarzman Center from around noon to 1 p.m. before being disassembled by facilities workers as students chanted in support of Palestine. Words by the Yale Daily News. Photos by Samad hakani and Christina lee.

On Monday morning, pro-Palestine organizers installed a wooden bookshelf on Beinecke Plaza near the entrance to the Schwarzman Center as part of a protest titled “Books not Bombs.” After an hour of back-and-forth conversation between the protesters and University officials at the scene, facilities workers disassembled the structure as students chanted in support of Palestine, calling for Yale to divest from weapons manufacturing.

According to Yale’s November 2023 SEC filings, the University holds over 6,500 shares of iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF, a Blackrock-managed fund that invests in major weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon — which all sell weapons to Israel.

As of around 5:15 p.m., protesters are still sitting in Beinecke Plaza. While Yale employees dismantled the bookshelves, protesters announced their intent to engage in a “sustained occupation” of the plaza.

“We will continue to occupy the Plaza to make our voices heard, and we invite all members of the Yale community to join us and learn more about our demands,” Noor Kareem ’25, an organizer with Yalies4Palestine, stated in a press release.

Students began to erect the pop-up library at approximately 11:46 a.m. The structure consisted of nine bookshelves bolted together on the stairs to the Schwarzman Center, just to the left of Woodbridge Hall. The structure was about six feet tall and spanned most of the circular portion of the steps to Schwarzman, but did not preclude students from walking through.

The messages “ALL WALLS WILL FALL” and “BOOKS NOT BOMBS” were painted on the back of the structure facing away from the entrance to the Schwarzman Center.

Photo by Yolanda Wang, Contributing Photographer.

After setting up the shelves and filling them with over 200 books, about three dozen students sat in the plaza between the shelves and Schwarzman.

Since the start of the protest, two National Lawyers Guild legal observers have been present on the scene. The NLG Legal Observers program states its goal to be enabling people to “express their political views as fully as possible without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the police.” One of the observers, State Rep. David Michel, told the News that protest organizers invited the group to send observers. By the time the structure was dismantled, a third observer had arrived.

The first Yale Police Department officer to arrive outside the Schwarzman Center was Sergeant Dan Rainville, who told the News that he was called by security. He said that he was waiting for university officials to come to the protest scene.

Within an hour, four other YPD officers arrived, but they had not engaged with protesters as of 5:15 p.m.

Around noon, Assistant Vice President for University Life Pilar Montalvo asked students to take down the structure, saying that it was “obstructing everything.” She issued her first warning to student organizers at 12:05 p.m., when she was heard telling the group that they had ten minutes to remove the structure or she would have University staff do it for them.

Montalvo refused to talk to the News on the scene, telling reporters around noon to “send [her] an email.” She later told the News to instead communicate with the University spokesperson, Karen Peart.

Peart wrote shortly after 3:30 p.m. that the bookshelves “blocked pedestrian access to the plaza,” citing the University guidelines regarding free speech and peaceable assembly as well as the use of outdoor spaces policy.

Pedestrians were able to pass through Beinecke Plaza to Schwarzman Center on either side of the bookshelf throughout the protest.

Last semester, Montalvo told a student that “structures are not allowed on Cross Campus or Beinecke Plaza” in an email obtained by the News.

She informed the students that if the University staff were to remove the structure, they would not promise to protect its integrity and would not have anywhere to store it; however, if the students removed it themselves, they would be allowed to keep it.

“I’m not concerned with your demands, that is wonderful. What I’m concerned with is this structure on my plaza,” Montalvo told the organizers.

Ten minutes later, at 12:15 p.m., Montalvo again approached the student organizers to ask if they had made a decision about how to proceed. Shortly after this exchange, protesters started to hang a Palestinian flag and banners with messages such as “Strike 4 Palestine” on the back of the bookshelves. By 12:42 p.m., banners and signs from previous protests, such as one reading “YALE CORP DIVEST FROM WAR,” were also added.

Intermittent conversations between student organizers and Montalvo continued for another 45 minutes.

Shortly after 1:00 p.m., at least five facility workers arrived on the scene to disassemble the structure while students and faculty members started to chant and make speeches. By this point, over 100 people had gathered on the steps.

One of the organizers who had spoken with Montalvo asked students to stay six feet away from the structure and give workers space to take it down.

Protesters chanted slogans, such as “Invest in Israel and weapons too, Yale Corporation shame on you,” encouraging divestment from military weapons manufacturers and lambasting Israel’s role in the ongoing war. Students also chanted “We will free Palestine within our lifetime” and “Up, up with liberation; down, down with occupation.”

On Oct. 7, Hamas launched an attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people as hostages. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas and launched a military offensive in Gaza and, as of April 9, has killed at least 33,360 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. This death toll, however, is likely an underestimate by thousands, as experts fear thousands more people are dead under the rubble. According to Israel, Hamas currently holds 133 hostages, of whom 36 are confirmed dead.

Three protesters, who said they represented the Yale chapter of Faculty for Justice in Palestine, also spoke at the sit-in. FJP-Yale also released a statement on their Instagram page in support of the protest, which they referred to as “Books not Bombs,” earlier this afternoon.

At around 1:05 p.m., facilities workers removed all books from the shelves and stacked them on a bench next to the protesters. The workers proceeded to unscrew the bolts in the shelves to separate them and transfer them to the lawn in front of Woodbridge Hall, where the workers broke them down into smaller pieces.

Workers later transferred the pieces into an Office of Facilities truck. Workers and the University officials present at the scene refused to disclose to the News the truck’s destination.

Protesters later set the books and posters on the ground in front of Schwarzman.

At around 3 p.m., organizers and attendees gathered in a circle on the Beinecke Plaza to listen to Maryam Kashani, a filmmaker and professor in gender and women’s studies and Asian American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At around 3:50 p.m., Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natalie Diaz — who currently teaches the course “Breathing Poetry into the Archives” — also spoke.

In 1986, students constructed a shanty town in Beinecke Plaza to rally for Yale’s divestment from companies doing business under South Africa’s apartheid regime. The shanty town stood for two years.

This is an ongoing story that the News will continue to follow.

Yolanda Wang, Yurii Stasiuk, Brooklyn Brauner, Ben Raab, Adam Walker, Kaitlyn Pohly, Tristan Hernandez, Khuan-Yu Hall, Samad Hakani, Christina Lee, Nydia del Carmen and Anika Arora Seth contributed reporting.