Students for Justice in Palestine hosts ‘die-in’ to honor victims of Gaza violence
Protesters lie on the ground in front of Royce Hall as part of a “die-in” hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine on Wednesday. One banner hanging from the balcony of Royce Hall reads, “Murdering 5000+ children is not self defense, #FreePalestine,” while another behind the protesters reads “UC, you have blood on your hands.” (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)
This post was updated Nov. 30 at 9:29 p.m.
Nearly 100 students and community members gathered Wednesday for a “die-in” and demonstration to recognize Palestinian lives lost in recent violence in Gaza.
The demonstration, which began at 1 p.m. in front of Perloff Hall, was hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA in conjunction with other student organizations including the UC Divest Coalition at UCLA and Jewish Voice for Peace. During the event, students – many wearing keffiyehs and masks to cover their faces – walked from Perloff Hall to Royce Hall, where they laid down and recited the names of Palestinians killed in the ongoing violence in Gaza, chanting phrases such as “Honor our martyrs” and “UC is complicit” in between names.
Protesters also hung banners in front of Royce Hall that said “Biden funds the genocide of the Palestinian people” and “Murdering 5000+ children is not self defense, #FreePalestine.” Gravestones and small flags with names of those killed were placed on the lawn of Dickson Plaza, with the flags arranged in the pattern of the Palestinian flag.
This event is one of several protests at UCLA in support of Palestine that have occurred over the past couple months.
An Oct. 7 attack by militant group and Palestinian political party Hamas on Israeli villages left an estimated 1,200 people dead, according to Reuters. Since then, Israel has launched air raids, bombings and a ground invasion that have killed at least 14,000 Palestinians, according to The New York Times. On Friday, Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day temporary ceasefire – which was extended Monday by an additional two days and then again Wednesday by an additional day – and exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, according to AP.
Mohammad, a media representative from SJP who was granted partial anonymity for safety reasons, said the event was hosted to respect the people who have died in Gaza, adding that the event forced people on campus to recognize what is happening.
“It definitely changes everyone’s daily maneuver about their day. It’s not just go to class, go to class,” he said. “You see people evoking through demonstration the same distraught and stark message that they (passersby) are implicitly, not even intentionally, ignoring.”
During the protest, speakers condemned UC investment in companies with ties to Israeli weapons manufacturers and called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. After they spoke, attendees chanted phrases such as “Gaza, Gaza, you will rise, Palestine will never die,” “Not a conflict, not a war,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
In a speech, a first-year Palestinian student talked about their family’s experiences living under Israeli occupation and being unable to move freely in the Palestinian territories. They added in their speech that when they were in the occupied West Bank this summer, Israeli soldiers attacked a city a couple hours from where they were staying, which made them feel scared and disheartened.
“Our people love life. We love living life. But our Zionist oppressors do not want to see life in us – so they take our homes, they take our children, and they take our livelihoods from us,” they said in the speech. “This is what our reality is. This is what it means to be Palestinian.”
Representatives from the various organizations leading the event also spoke. One member of UC Divest condemned the deployment of police against UC Divest and supporters of the Opportunity for All campaign – which calls on the UC to hire students without legal status – during the public comment section of the UC Board of Regents’ meeting Nov. 16.
Samantha Bustani Jimenez, a third-year English transfer student and member of SJP who was present at the die-in, said she hopes the regents notice the protest. She also said that she believes events like the die-in force people to pay attention to Gaza.
“I hope that the regents stop ignoring it, and I hope that they become more willing to listen and understand and don’t just release statements that are vague,” Bustani Jimenez said. “I think part of that narrative pushes the wrong idea that a lot of people have about the occupation and the genocide that’s happening.”
Groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA and Anakbayan UCLA, a student organization that supports Philippine liberation, also attended the event in support. Benjamin Kersten, a member leader of Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA, said they attended the event to stand in solidarity as a Jewish student who organizes alongside Palestinians for their freedom.
He added that since Palestinians are being dehumanized – such as by being called animals – their deaths have not been respected, but that this event provided a space to show the reverence they deserve.
Kersten, who is also an art history doctoral student, added that they believe there needs to be a permanent ceasefire in the region. Since the beginning of the temporary ceasefire, Hamas has released at least 85 Israeli hostages and Israel has released at least 180 imprisoned Palestinians as of Tuesday, according to The New York Times.
Maya Abdallah, a Palestinian activist, said she feels Palestinian resistance has been invalidated, adding that the reading of names allows people to fight for those who have been killed in Gaza.
“The reading of the names is such a powerful, untouchable act of resistance,” Abdallah said. “It’s just so important to honor our dead and to make it known that we are not just a number.”