Pro-Palestinian rallies, events held across CSU system on ‘day of action’ but no disturbances – Orange County Register

Pro-Palestinian protesters urged students throughout California State University’s Southern California campuses to take part in a CSU-wide day of action on Wednesday, May 8, as tensions continue to flare over the Israel-Hamas war.

No major outbreaks were reported in the greater Los Angeles area, however. Across a number of college campuses, including non-CSU campuses, students held teach-ins and other activities while calling on university officials to divest from Israel and businesses with ties to Israel, and related demands.

Meanwhile, at USC, the first set of more than 100 planned graduation events took place Wednesday without disruptions, to the relief of the graduates and their loved ones who had traveled near and far to celebrate their achievements.

Additional events are planned through Saturday for graduating USC students, who for weeks wondered if there would be any celebrations at all. In mid-April, the university announced that this year’s valedictorian, a pro-Palestinian student, would not be allowed to speak at commencement. Subsequent protests led to the arrest of 93 pro-Palestinian demonstrators on April 24, prompting USC administrators to call off the university’s main-stage commencement ceremony, which would have taken place this Friday.

Across town at UCLA, it was unclear whether a decision to change the venue of the law school’s commencement ceremony – announced the day after an April 30 clash that turned violent between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel demonstrators – was in direct response to the rising tensions on campus. The ceremony will now take place Friday in Pauley Pavilion, starting at 12:30 p.m.

UCLA has continued to deal with fallout stemming from protests that began April 25. After clashes between pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the encampment and pro-Israel activists who came onto campus turned violent last Tuesday, April 30, the university called in law enforcement who arrested over 200 people early Thursday.

About 45 more arrests were made Monday during another gathering on campus.

On Tuesday night, the Undergraduate Students Association Council passed a resolution calling for UCLA Chancellor Gene Block to resign if he did not agree to the demands of the Palestine Solidarity Encampment, according to the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s campus newspaper.

The university did not respond to emails seeking comment.

California State University campuses

Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian activists called on students across the California State University system to take part in a CSU-wide “day of action” on Wednesday.

In the San Fernando Valley, the Cal State Northridge chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine announced a teach-in about the call for divestment, followed by an art activity in the afternoon.

At Cal State L.A., where a Gaza solidarity encampment has been up since May 1 in front of the campus gymnasium, student activists demanded divestment, called for their school to support a permanent ceasefire and condemned what they called the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinian people.

The students held a mostly-undisturbed pro-Palestine rally the night before.

CSULA President Berenecea J. Eanes met with the student activists on May 3 at the encampment, a university spokesperson said, and has been “in dialogue with the protest group every day” to seek “a peaceful resolution.”

Some graffiti “carrying messages of hate and bigotry, including antisemitic rhetoric” was reported on campus property, including King Hall and the University Student Union, over the weekend, officials said. The graffiti was removed the same day, the spokesperson said.

In addition, messages of “Free Gaza” and “Free Palestine,” among others, were on the wall of the physical education building near the encampment. Officials are continuing to investigate.

Student activists have denied that any vandalism on campus had antisemitic rhetoric.

Cal State LA lecturer Nadia Orozco participated in Tuesday night’s rally to support students participating in the encampment, bringing them supplies like food and first aid items.

“A lot of our movements have been led by students, so I think it’s important to listen because it’s their future,” Orozco, who uses they/them pronouns, said. “We’re literally seeing atrocities happening live in real time.”

And in Long Beach, CSU students belonging to Students for Justice in Palestine staged a walkout to demand that the university divest from Israel and to disclose their investments to the public so students can see what their tuition money is funding.

The rally took place at the university’s central quad where over 100 students and faculty planned to stay the entire day, with programming such as teach-ins, art activities and a screening of the documentary “Israelism.”

Last week, hundreds of students and faculty at Cal State Long Beach took over Brotman Hall in a rally once again intended to support Palestinians in Gaza and demand the university divest from investments that fund Israel.

“Just like last Thursday, we want to put pressure on the administration and show them that we’re still here and that we’re not going to go away that easy,” said a student media liaison for SJP-CSULB on Wednesday. “And that we’re not only going to have one rally and call it a day, we know that campaigning takes a substantial amount of events, pressuring, strategies and tactics to make sure our administration even hears us. Let alone take us seriously and let alone divest.”

“We know that the semester is ending but we have other plans to make sure they hear us and we don’t plan on going away that easily,” they said.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Orange County, several student groups gathered at Cal State Fullerton’s campus quad, calling on administrators to “divest from death.” In an open letter to CSU President Sylvia Alva, the students demanded that the university disclose how it’s spending its money and to divest from all companies and partnerships which “actively participate in the colonization and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.”

The group said on Instagram it will continue its protest with an all-day event on Thursday on campus.

Other campuses

Elsewhere in Orange County, officials for other universities have also been reacting to student protests.

UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman, in a Tuesday night email sent to the campus community reiterated there are some demands being made by students who have formed a solidarity encampment with Gaza that the university can accommodate, but not others.

The Pro-Palestinian protesters at UCI said they refuse to leave the encampment in the Physical Sciences Quad until the university divests from companies with ties to Israel and weapon manufacturers, among other demands.

But Gillman said some of the demands are “inconsistent with fundamental principles and policies of the University of California” include ending partnerships with Israel and “demands that seek to prevent faculty and students from expressing views and organizing programs on topics relating to Israel, Zionism, or Antisemitism that conflict with these protestors’ views.”

“These demands are not only unreasonable, but the protestors also fail to recognize that the free speech rights they challenge are the same ones that protect their rights to express their own views as part of legitimate protest and advocacy,” Gillman said. “While they feel strongly that views they oppose should not be expressed, I assure you there are also members within our community who view the protestors’ opinions as objectionable, even hateful, and feel they should be censored and punished merely for expressing those views.”

Gillman said demands for transparency on school resources used to address islamophobia and antisemitism and information about investments made by the UCI Foundation would be easy to accommodate.

Meanwhile, a similar encampment that formed at Chapman University entered its seventh day, with students holding teach-ins, rallies and educational activities in front of Wilkinson Hall.

The encampment at Chapman University has remained peaceful. Students have set up approximately 10 tents near Wilkinson Hall with about 30 students milling about that area during the day, university spokesperson Molly Thrasher said.

The student protesters continue to be in conversations with the university administration about their demands, she said.

Thrasher added that business remains as usual on campus, as students finish their last week of classes before finals.

Pomona College in Claremont also entered its third day of a pro-Palestine encampment by Pomona Divest from Apartheid (PDfA), which is occupying the commencement stage.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there had been no further updates from the university regarding any changes to plans for Friday’s commencement ceremonies. Meanwhile, PDfA is planning to hold an “Alterna-Grad” on Sunday at 10 a.m., according to the group’s Instagram page.

There have been no reports of further arrests at the college or a police presence. Campus safety had appeared to monitor the group, but no contact had been made as of Wednesday afternoon.

SCNG reporters Mercedes Cannon-Tran, Clara Harter, Jonathan Horwitz, Victoria Ivie, Christina Merino, John Orona and Michael Slaten contributed reporting.

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