Local Pro-Palestinian Protests Elicit Strong Response

On the morning of April 25, students at UCLA established a “Palestinian Solidarity Encampment” in the center of Royce Quad, mirroring Pro-Palestine protests taking place at universities across America.

Over 200 protesters occupied the encampment to demand that UCLA sever ties with universities in Israel, issue a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and divest from companies that do business with Israel.

The protest drew criticism from Jewish students and community leaders who denounced its chants such as “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free” and “Intifada now” as antisemitic. 

“Today’s protest at UCLA included hateful antisemitic threats, calls for the violent destruction of the State of Israel, and statements praising the leadership of Hamas—a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians alike,” said Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Hollywood), whose district includes UCLA. “I am appalled and disgusted by antisemitic and xenophobic chants, protestors telling Jews to go back to Europe and the glorification of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack.”


U.S. Senate candidate Steve Garvey condemning protest actions at Beverly Gardens Park

Several Jewish students at UCLA said that they do not currently feel safe on campus.

“It’s important that they (protesters) have the right to freedom of speech and to say their viewpoints, there’s a lot of hateful rhetoric,” said Eli Chavez, a Pro-Israel Jewish student at UCLA. “It’s just sad to me because I know a majority of my Jewish friends feel unsafe. They won’t even leave their dorms.”

The protest began around 4 a.m. with organizers setting up dozens of tents and sealing the area with makeshift fences.

“There are multiple student organizations that are here from all different backgrounds that are agitated and frustrated at the situation in Gaza and the West Bank,” said a protest organizer and Junior at UCLA who did not wish to be named due to fear of retaliation from the university. “We are building a community with each other and staying strong for Palestine.”

The organizer said that the encampment opposes hate in all forms and that there are several Jewish student protestors present including members of the organization Jewish Voice for Peace, who oppose Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

Nevertheless, some Jewish Bruins said they felt threatened.

“They say anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism, but there’s a very thin line and most of the time they cross it in the things they’re shouting or displaying on posters,” said Chavez.

This sentiment was echoed by Rabbi David Gurevich with Chabad at UCLA. 

“If you look at some of the signs it is very clear when they depict Jews with horns, or as they had the regent’s hearing, a pig with a money bag, these are very old medieval antisemitic tropes and stereotypes,” he said. 

An antisemetic caricature was displayed during a pro-Palestine protest that took place at the University of California Board of Regents meeting in mid-March, prompting the university to issue a statement saying it was “appalled, offended and deeply frustrated” by the display. 

While the protest was taking place at UCLA, U.S. Senate candidate Steve Garvey held a press conference at Beverly Gardens Park denouncing recent acts of antisemitism. He was joined by Rabbi Chaim Mentz from Chabad of Bel Air and Aaron Cohen, former member of the IDF.


Pro-Palestinian signage at UCLA
Photo by Clara Harter

“I’m concerned about where we are as a country right now,” said Garvey. “I am concerned that college campuses are great institutions that all of a sudden are lacking leadership. It’s time for us to stand up.”  

“There are terrorist attacks on the Jewish students,” he told the Courier. “Let’s try these people who are terrorists hiding behind free speech.”

In the afternoon of April 25, Mary Osako, Vice Chancellor of UCLA Strategic Communications, issued a statement saying that the university’s top priority remains the safety and well-being of its entire community. 

“We are 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 stated. 

On April 24, student protestors and community activists set up a similar Pro-Palestine encampment at USC’s Alumni Park. The LAPD made 93 arrests for trespassing after protestors refused to obey orders to leave the area. 

USC later sent an email announcing that the university-wide commencement ceremony, which typically draws 65,000 attendees, will be canceled due to safety challenges. Individual schools’ commencement ceremonies will still take place. 

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