Hundreds of UCLA students participate in march, walkout for Palestine
Members of the walkout in support of Palestine march through campus. The event was the second of the month to show support for Palestine. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)
This post was updated Oct. 27 at 7:36 p.m.
Several hundred people gathered in Bruin Plaza on Wednesday afternoon for a walkout and march in support of Palestine.
The walkout – organized by student groups on campus including Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA and UC Divest Coalition at UCLA – began at 2 p.m. and involved speakers, chanting and a march through campus to the Court of Sciences. Multiple events on campus have occurred since an Oct. 7 attack on Israeli towns, for which Hamas – a militant group and Palestinian political party – took credit, according to the Associated Press. Airstrikes, attacks and bombings, including an explosion at a hospital in Gaza hosting thousands of Palestinians, have continued since then, according to AP.
The event was the second student walkout in support of Palestine this month.
The event was attended by a private security company and members of UCPD, as well as other individuals claiming to provide security for the event.
In an emailed statement, a UCLA spokesperson said student affairs officials trained in free expression rights and de-escalation techniques met with walkout planners in advance of the event and attended the protest.
One of the organizers, a member of SJP at California State University, Northridge, who was granted anonymity because of safety concerns, said organizations hosted a second walkout because violence in the Gaza Strip has reduced civilians’ access to food, water supplies and hospitals. They added that they thought recent attacks on Palestinian people amounted to genocide.
“We were here … a couple weeks ago because the siege had – the genocide had – started,” they said. “Now we see: Not only is it ongoing, it’s ramped up.”
Participants at the walkout, many of whom wore face masks to conceal their identities, chanted phrases such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “There is only one solution, intifada revolution” – a term historically referring to uprisings in Palestinian territories – and “Resistance is justified when people are occupied.”
Some members of the campus community were concerned that the chants during the walkout were antisemitic. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” has historically been associated with calls for a Palestinian state that would ultimately dismantle the state of Israel.
Following the walkout, individuals on social media also claimed that chanters called for a Jewish genocide. According to an Instagram post from Hillel at UCLA, those claims are inaccurate – the chant is, in fact, “We charge you with genocide.”
Another organizer, a member of SJP at UCLA who was also granted anonymity for safety reasons, said the chants at the walkout were not intended to be antisemitic, adding that a Jewish organization that supports Palestinian liberation was involved in planning the walkout.
“Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. All our chants are never rooted in the direct harm of any race group or people,” they said. “It’s about the liberation and self-determination, self-realization of Palestinian people, and the misinterpretation of such is just a misunderstanding of the Palestinian cause.”
Several attendees spoke during the walkout to share personal stories, call for an end to Israeli attacks in Gaza and demand that the UC stop investing in weapons manufacturing.
Alicia Verdugo, the Cultural Affairs commissioner for the Undergraduate Students Association Council, was one of the speakers at the walkout. Verdugo, who is also a third-year education and social transformation and sociology student, said in their speech that they felt it was important to advocate for Palestine, even if it put them at risk of hate and harassment.
“No matter how high the stakes are, we are stronger together,” she said. “We will never be afraid when we’re together. We will never be ashamed when we’re together.”
Julian, an attendee at the walkout who was given partial anonymity because of safety concerns, said he was there to show solidarity with people in Palestine. He added that he feels the protest is important because of alleged UC investments in businesses involved in manufacturing Israeli military equipment.
“By investing in this kind of companies and in this kind of technology, we’re being complicit,” he said.
Several speakers brought attention to recent allegations of attacks against pro-Palestinian students on campus.
In the statement, the UCLA spokesperson said members of the student affairs team intervened in response to students at Kaplan Hall allegedly experiencing harassment while attempting to watch a teach-in on their computers. The spokesperson added that the university is still investigating the incident with an eye to holding individuals in violation of university rules and the law accountable.
“While we don’t believe the individuals who caused the incident are students or affiliated with our campus, we strongly encourage all community members to engage in thoughtful debate and treat everyone with respect,” they said in the statement.
Many people also watched the walkout participants march past.
A second-year computer science student – who was granted anonymity because of safety concerns but did not participate in the walkout – said that while they understand why people protest, they do not think it will result in any change. However, they added that it was interesting to see people so passionate about a certain topic.
An alumnus of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, who was also given anonymity because of safety concerns, said they participated in the walkout after someone in their family who is half-Palestinian lost family members in a bombing. They added that they came to the protest with their daughter because they want to raise awareness for different viewpoints on the crisis.
“Loss of life on all sides is horrible,” they said. “Just because one group did something terrible doesn’t justify another group to do something equally terrible or even worse.”