UCLA community members host protest to show support for Jewish students
Community members calling for the release of hostages taken in an Oct. 7 attack are pictured. The protestors also sought to show support for Jewish students on campus. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)
This post was updated Oct. 31 at 11:22 p.m.
Hundreds gathered outside Royce Hall on Monday to call for the freeing of Israelis being held hostage and show support for Jewish students.
The event – which was hosted by alumni and other UCLA community members and attended by many non-students – began at 1 p.m. It included a march from outside Royce Hall through Bruin Plaza to Kaplan Hall.
Community members have participated in multiple events on campus, including vigils and walkouts, following an Oct. 7 attack on Israeli towns that Hamas – a militant group and Palestinian political party – took credit for, according to the Associated Press. Airstrikes, attacks and bombings by Hamas and the Israeli government have continued since then, according to AP.
The event featured speakers, songs and chants including “Bring them home” and “Never again is now.”
Alex Reyhan, one of the event’s organizers and a history alumnus who graduated in 2017, said the protest also aimed to make Jewish students feel more comfortable because he thinks many are afraid for their safety following alleged antisemitism on college campuses.
“We want to basically send the message that, ‘Hey students, Jews around the world, you’re not alone. We stand by you. Continue practicing your Jewish practices,’” Reyhan said.
Multiple speakers voiced the need for a better response from the university in protecting Jewish students on campus and also called for the release of Israeli hostages by Hamas.
Sharona Nazarian, the first Iranian American woman elected to the Beverly Hills City Council, said in a speech that while she sees strength on campus, she also has seen parents concerned for their children’s safety. She added that it is important for everyone to stand for peace and to speak up about injustice, specifically in regard to what is going on in the Gaza Strip.
“It doesn’t matter what religion you are, where you come from,” Nazarian said. “We stand for humanity. We stand for solidarity.”
Delilah, a first-year political science student who was given partial anonymity because of safety concerns, said she came to the protest because she was alarmed by the fact that she felt there was increased antisemitism and disinformation following the Oct. 7 attacks.
“I’ve seen it everywhere,” Delilah said. “People posting harmful content – that could really harm Jewish students here and all over.”
Delilah said she thought a lot of Jewish students did not attend the protest out of a concern for safety recently, but added that she hopes seeing some students and alumni protest will help everyone on campus feel more comfortable.
Nathan Curtis, a graduate student in business, said everyone should be given a chance to speak their minds.
“It’s really important that everyone’s sides are shown and given an equal opportunity to demonstrate and to show support,” Curtis said.
A small number of Palestine supporters attended the protest, both to observe and to speak out against the protest. One individual, who wished to remain anonymous because of safety reasons, said they attended the protest despite not agreeing with it because they wanted to learn about other viewpoints.
“I just want to see their point of view and see what they’re talking about,” they said. “The assumption is that every fault that comes, everything that happens, is from Hamas, and Israel has basically no role in anything that’s happened, and I think it’s very misleading for the general public.”
There were also verbal arguments at the protest between a small number of attendees and counter-protesters. Staff members from UCLA Student Affairs who observed the arguments declined a request for comment.
Lorena Hagiverta, a third-year political science student, said she attended the protest to show support for her Jewish friends and because she wanted to stand up for her beliefs.
“Everything that has been happening has really put a strain on my heart,” she said. “I have a lot of Jewish friends and a lot of friends who have family in Israel, and it’s very hard to see them struggling and being devastated about everything that’s going on.”
Contributing reports by Sharla Steinman, city and crime editor.