News and Talk Director
This past Thursday, hundreds of students, professors, and community members gathered at the bottom of the UCSC campus to protest the ongoing conflict in Gaza and to show support for Palestine. Led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), protestors gathered along the four-way intersection at the base of the campus, blocking incoming and outgoing traffic.
A banner reading “Free Palestine – Resistance Until Return and Liberation” was draped over the UCSC entrance sign. Demonstrators also held up posters with messages such as “Free Gaza” and “Shame on UC: University of Catastrophe Divest.”
“I’m here to support Palestine, and as a Jewish person, I don’t believe in the settler state of Israel,” an anonymous student attendant told KZSC. “It means a lot to be here.”
Joined by the SJP were multiple student and community organizations, including the UCSC Armenian Student Association, as well as Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs and the Cowell Coffee Shop, who provided free meals to demonstrators.
“I’ve spent time in the West Bank in Palestine, so when I saw the massacres in Gaza, I was outraged, like most people,” said Keith McHenry, one of the original co-founders of Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs. “Any time there’s a protest against the genocide, I show up.”
The UCSC Armenian Student Association came to extend support, raising money for Palestine as well as Artsakh, a region in the South Caucasus currently in conflict.
“We recently, as Armenians, experienced a genocide in Artsakh, where 120,000 people lost access to their homes, and we no longer have access to our indigenous lands,” a student from the ASA told KZSC. “We really resonate with the movement, and want to come together in unity.”
Shortly after protestors blocked the sidewalks, vehicles from the Santa Cruz Police Department entered the east and west sides of the four-way intersection, and organizers subsequently handed out arrest forms and printed documents explaining rights to film and document officers. The protest, however, remained peaceful throughout the course of the day.
A little after 1 pm, participants closely gathered around the center of the intersection, where students from SJP brought out an ofrenda and held ‘Pal 101,’ an educational session centered on providing historical context for the conflict and articulating student demands. Students also gave a moment for prayer and silence to honor the martyrs and victims of the conflict.
“Our demands are an immediate ceasefire, and to end apartheid and the illegal occupation of Israel in Palestine,” a student organizer and SJP member told KZSC. “And, of course, we stand for the political rights of all Palestinian people all around the world, we affirm their right to return to their homeland, and we also demand an end to the settler colonial state of Israel.”
Ultimately, the event was overwhelmingly positive, with SJP members and demonstrators expressing gratitude for the community’s response.
“It’s been a very beautiful day,” an SJP member told KZSC. “We have received so much support from everyone in the Santa Cruz community.”
“It’s been nothing but love from the campus, even in the planning process.” said another organizer and member of SJP. “The fact that we were able to put on an event like this today only with community support is incredible.”
As of November 10th, the death toll in the Gaza Strip had topped 11,000, according to a report from Reuters. The conflict shows no signs of stopping, with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the battle will continue unless all 239 hostages held by militants in Gaza are released, according to a report from Associated Press.