Students show support for Palestine, call for UC Regents to divest from BlackRock
Students with the UC Divest Coalition and UCLA chapter of Law Students for a Free Palestine are shown gathered at the steps of Murphy Hall to call for support of Palestine and UC divestment from BlackRock. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)
Nov. 16, 2023 7:56 p.m.
Dozens of students demonstrated in support of Palestine and called for divestment from companies involved with weapons manufacturing outside of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center and Murphy Hall on Thursday.
The assembly began at 8:15 a.m. with the UCLA chapter of the UC Divest Coalition protesting outside Thursday’s UC Board of Regents meeting at the Luskin Conference Center. Protestors called for awareness of the Palestinian cause in light of the 2023 Israel-Hamas war and for the UC to divest from the management firm BlackRock – citing its investments in weapons manufacturing and alleged ties to the Israeli military – and instead address students’ basic needs.
The morning event was the first of four that the coalition planned Thursday as part of its People’s Day of Action, which also included a poster-making session and collective lunch, a town hall and an afternoon march.
According to the Associated Press, the Palestinian militant group and political party Hamas launched an attack on villages at the Israel-Gaza border beginning on Oct. 7, and has continued with further attacks since. In response, Israel launched its own assault, releasing bombs and airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which escalated to a ground invasion that began at the end of October. According to the AP, Israel’s attacks have killed over 11,000 people in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7.
The UC Divest Coalition marched from the Luskin Conference Center around 2:30 p.m. and was then joined by the UCLA chapter of Law Students for a Free Palestine, eventually stopping to gather on the steps of Murphy Hall. Students gave speeches calling for a ceasefire in Palestine and UC divestment from firms investing in weapons manufacturing.
Many protestors gathered wearing face masks, keffiyehs and the colors of the Palestinian flag, carrying signs reading “Divest my tuition,” “Long live Palestine,” and “Fund students not war.” They also chanted phrases including “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “UC, UC you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide” and “Stop the U.S. war machine.”
Campus security blocked the entrance to Murphy Hall, preventing the UC Divest Coalition from its plan to enter the building for a group discussion.
Mohammad, a student with the UC Divest Coalition who was granted partial anonymity for safety reasons, said he would prefer the UC invest in students’ livelihoods, such as in the form of housing and financial aid, instead of companies tied to the military industrial complex.
“You have students who can’t even get housing out here, can’t even afford to keep the housing, afford the food and can’t even afford the means of subsistence to a degree where it’s hard to even focus on studies, hard to even be a part of your academic process when you yourself have so much that is holding you back,” he said.
Students with the UC Divest Coalition also entered the morning’s regents meeting to call for support of Palestine during the public comment session and protested in the meeting following public comment.
A UC Divest Coalition student organizer, who was granted anonymity for safety reasons, said the regents soon left the meeting room as the protest began, and over 20 UCPD officers were sent in to disperse the protestors. They said UCPD harassed student protestors and used physical force to push the protestors out of the meeting room, knocking students to the ground, threatening to arrest them and then encircling them in the Luskin Conference Center lobby.
UCPD did not respond to a request for comment in response to the allegations.
Asmaa, a law student participating in the UCLA LSFP demonstration who was granted partial anonymity for safety reasons, said she felt the protest was needed because of hostility toward expressions of support for Palestine at the UCLA School of Law and across the university.
“(We’ve) joined together for a day of action today to call for an end to the genocide that’s happening in Gaza specifically, and for an end to the apartheid and the occupation of Palestine, and also for an end to the censorship of pro-Palestine voices,” she said.
She added she has seen anti-Arab harassment on campus recently. Asmaa said nonstudents attending pro-Israel rallies on campus have verbally harassed Arab and Muslim students, who she feels received little protection from the university. She also said she has heard professors express discomfort at the idea of speaking in support of Palestine and potentially facing questions from the administration.
“We want to show that there are a sizable number of us here and that we have supporters. We’re a community, and we have each others’ backs,” she said.