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SJP and UC Divest Coalition Demonstrations at UCLAUCLA chancellor appointment

UCLA community organizes encampment in response to national call for escalation

An encampment in front of Royce Hall is pictured. Protesters demonstrated with around 30 tents Thursday morning to demand that the UC divest from the war in Gaza, which has passed its 200th day. (Darlene Sanzon/Daily Bruin)

By Dylan Winward and Catherine Hamilton

April 25, 2024 11:19 a.m.

This story is developing. Follow along for updates.

This post was updated April 26 at 12:53 a.m.

UCLA students and community members set up around 30 tents in front of Royce Hall on Thursday morning to demand UC divestment as the war in Gaza passes its 200th day. 

Organized by Students for Justice in Palestine and the UC Divest Coalition at UCLA, the encampment represents solidarity with Palestine, said Annie, a spokesperson for the organizations who did not provide their last name for safety reasons. The mobilization’s goals include UC divestment from companies that invest in weapons manufacturing for the Israeli military, transparent disclosure of UC financial records, severing UCLA’s ties with LAPD, calling for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, and boycotting Israeli academic institutions. 

“This is our way of showing that, as a student body, we’re fighting back against the repression of the university and how the university continues to ignore the demands of the students here,” Annie said.

Palestinian political party and militant group Hamas attacked Israeli villages Oct. 7, with continued attacks since then, according to the Associated Press. In response, Israel attacked the Gaza Strip with a ground invasion, as well as bombings and airstrikes, since killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to AP.

Annie added that the encampment was in response to a national call for escalation related to the arrests and repression of pro-Palestine college students on university campuses, such as Columbia University and the University of Southern California. Encampment infrastructure, including tents, came primarily through donations from community members, they said.

“The tents here are only a reflection of how many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are currently living in tents because their homes have been destroyed,” Annie said. “It’s a way to make a very public encampment, a very public statement that we are not OK with what’s happening in Palestine, we are not OK with what’s happening to Palestinians, and it is our moral duty to escalate and to do something to defend Palestine.”

Benjamin Kersten, an organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA, said the encampments will remain on campus until the university makes meaningful commitments to divest from companies such as BlackRock, which has ties to Israeli weapons manufacturing. 

Kersten added that Jewish organizations that have released statements labeling encampments across the country as antisemitic are doing a disservice to what he sees as a movement toward justice. 

Protesters at the encampment are pictured. (Ella Coffey/Daily Bruin)

A point of potential disagreement between participants appears to be the call to divest from Israeli academics and culture. 

Annie said the protesters are calling for the university to end partnerships with Israeli universities.

“We want an academic boycott of Israeli universities, including study abroad programs, fellowships, seminars and research collaborations,” Annie said. “This is something we take directly from the movement to boycott and divest from South Africa. There is a push for cultural and academic boycott of the systems and of these governments that are causing harm and causing violence.”

However, Kersten said the issue of whether to boycott Israeli culture is a “sticking point” among protesters and more of a divisive issue. 

In a BruinAlert message sent to the campus community, UCLA administrators said they are monitoring the protests to ensure the right to free expression is protected. The message also said individuals wanting to access Royce Hall or Powell Library would have to show a BruinCard.

Mary Osako, vice chancellor of UCLA Strategic Communications, added in an emailed statement to the Daily Bruin that the administration is trying to support a peaceful campus environment.

“Our top priority is always the safety and wellbeing of our entire Bruin community. We’re actively monitoring this situation to support a peaceful campus environment that respects our community’s right to free expression while minimizing disruption to our teaching and learning mission,” she said in the emailed statement.

Some professors were also present at the encampment. A.J. Julius, an associate professor in the philosophy department, said he came out to the encampment to support his students and call for a ceasefire. 

“I don’t understand why the faculty are split,” Julius said. 

Graeme Blair, an associate professor of political science and member of Faculty for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, said he came to ensure there are no academic repercussions for students participating in the encampment, given their right to express dissent on campus. 

“There’s a long history of student organizing at the University of California that’s led to major changes in the world,” Blair said. “We see this as a continuation of that important role. … Even if we don’t agree with them, it’s important that the university protects the important role that students play.” 

Members of Faculty for Justice in Palestine are also considering whether they should continue teaching classes, Blair said. Annie said a number of protesters also were skipping class to attend the protests.

Annie said the organizers plan to continue the encampment indefinitely, adding that they hope to do so in spite of recent heavy-handed policing against similar encampments across the country.

“We’re prepared to stand our ground and to continue with this encampment as best as possible,” they said. “This is not just specific organizations, but this is much bigger than that. There’s people here that are not involved with any organizations but feel this moral imperative to stand up for the people of Palestine and to do something about it.”

Contributing reports by Anna Dai-Liu, science and health editor.

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Dylan Winward | News editor
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
Hamilton was the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor.
Hamilton was the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor.
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