Students for Justice in Palestine, UC Divest host rally in support of Palestine
Protesters marching around campus in support of Palestine are pictured. The rally was co-hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA in collaboration with the UCLA chapter of the UC Divest Coalition. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)
Editor’s note: This post was updated to retroactively provide anonymity to a source out of concern for their safety.
This post was updated Nov. 12 at 9:55p.m.
Hundreds gathered in Bruin Plaza on Wednesday for a demonstration in support of Palestine.
The event, which began at noon, was hosted by the UCLA chapter of the UC Divest Coalition alongside Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA and was the third event organized by SJP since the start of the 2023 Israel-Hamas war. It featured a march around campus, chanting and speakers calling for the UC to stop investing in companies that allegedly have ties to the Israeli military.
According to the Associated Press, militant group and Palestinian political party Hamas attacked Israeli villages Oct. 7, continuing attacks on the region since then. In response, Israel launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip as well as bombings and airstrikes that have collectively killed over 10,000 people as of Wednesday, according to AP.
Many protesters at the rally wore face masks and keffiyehs to conceal their identity and chanted phrases such as “Free, free Palestine,” “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Mohammad, a media representative for SJP at UCLA who was granted partial anonymity for safety reasons, said he felt that Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip amount to genocide.
“The violence and occupation and murder of the people in Gaza has been belligerent, has been nonstop,” he said.
The protest was endorsed by groups such as MEChA de UCLA and the Asian Pacific Coalition, which fall under the Mother Organizations Coalition, a group of student organizations that represent historically marginalized and underserved groups at UCLA. Mohammad added that this endorsement showed the power of collective solidarity.
The protest was held to demand that the UC stop investing in the asset management firm, BlackRock, and instead spend the money on addressing student needs, Mohammad said, adding that UC employees are considering calling for a strike if the UC does not address students’ demands. Protesters also marched through Bunche Hall, in part to disrupt classes being held inside, Mohammad said.
A Muslim student who attended the event and was granted anonymity for safety reasons said they hope the event helps to change UCLA’s policy of investing in BlackRock, which they said is investing in weapons companies linked to the Israeli military.
The event was also attended by UCPD, UCLA Student Affairs representatives and other individuals claiming to provide security for the event. Mohammad said while he believes the representatives were there with good intentions, he felt the university did not allocate enough resources for Student Affairs to effectively protect the safety of those participating in the rally.
Julian, an attendee at the event who was granted partial anonymity because of safety concerns, said he chose to attend the event because he believes Israel is committing a genocide of Palestinians using weapons funded by the United States. He added that while he has not seen tangible change from the UCLA administration following previous protests, that does not mean there cannot be change in the future.
A student that requested anonymity due to safety concerns said they attended the event to stand in solidarity with their Palestinian friends and other Palestinian students, adding that they hope the event raised awareness and created a space for Palestinian students to feel supported.
“Students are shaping the view of the world right now,” they said. “This is a place for education and knowledge. If we don’t take advantage of that and show support and just rally and voice our opinions, no one’s going to do it.”
The event also follows claims on Instagram from the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Cultural Affairs Commission that on Tuesday, Zionist protesters harassed, threatened and assaulted students who were showing support for Palestine. The same day, a rally was held in support of Israel.
In the Instagram post, the commission also alleged that the same day, some of its staff members, who are Black students and students of color, were verbally harassed by an individual and threatened with violence. The commission has previously expressed solidarity with Palestine and condemned the U.S.’s financial and military support of Israel.
CAC did not respond to a request for comment.
Following the allegations, Mohammad said he feels the university is not doing enough to protect students supporting Palestine. He added that he feels there has been a double standard with how the university has dealt with alleged incidents of harassment at Israel and Palestine rallies.
The Muslim student who was granted anonymity said they have not personally experienced Islamophobia but have heard of violence against Muslim women wearing hijabs.
Near the end of the event, a speaker also criticized U.S. President Joe Biden’s response to the conflict, leading to negative chants from the crowd about the president. The organizers also invited attendees to destroy piñatas, which had pictures of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Biden on them.
A student who was granted anonymity for safety reasons said it is important for students to come to these events in order to see others’ support for them and the community. The conflict is deeply personal for many students, including students like them who have extended family in Palestine, they said.
“I am still so, so far removed from what the people there are experiencing. Death, destruction, no water, no electricity, no medicine – the basic necessities that we take for granted every day,” they said. “I feel guilty going to school walking around because there are so many people dying every day.”