SANTA CRUZ — Hundreds of UC Santa Cruz students gathered Wednesday at the Quarry Plaza on the UCSC campus to demand the university divestment from weapons manufacturers and an end to U.S. support for Israel in the latest war between Israel and Hamas.
“Historically, students are a powerful sector of the broader movement for collective freedom,” said the organizers, known as Dissenters, in a statement. “Young people from Palestinian communities, historically Black colleges and universities, Filipino youth, chapters of Democratic Socialists, and multi-racial student organizers from Dissenters chapters nationwide are coalescing around the demand to divest from Israel’s siege on Gaza, marking a historic turning point in this country.”
According to the Associated Press, the war is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Health Ministry said Wednesday that at least 6,546 Palestinians have been killed and 17,439 others wounded. In the occupied West Bank, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed and 1,650 wounded in violence and Israeli raids since Oct. 7. More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, according to Israeli officials.
Hundreds of UC Santa Cruz students march through campus on Wednesday to protest against the Israeli siege of Gaza and voice their opposition to Zionism. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)
The mobilization of students on more than 100 campuses nationwide was organized by National Students for Justice in Palestine, Palestinian Youth Movement, Dissenters, Arab Resource Organizing Center, Anakbayan USA, Resist US-Led War, and the Muslim Student Association, among others.
“We at UCSC Students for Justice in Palestine planned this walkout today to make it known that students at UCSC will no longer be complicit as our university funnels our tuition dollars to fund and enable the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people,” said UCSC Students for Justice in Palestine organizer Saher Alqarwani. “We demand that the UCs divest from all corporations that directly profit from the ongoing occupation of Palestine.”
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UCSC students first gathered at Quarry Plaza near the Bay Tree Bookstore and then marched through campus to the Baskin School of Engineering and back to the plaza — urging their fellow students and professors to, “Walk out!” along the way. Many did join the students as they marched along paths and through the street such as first-year student Diego Carranco.
“I didn’t know about this and saw them walking as I got out of class, and I support this cause,” said Carranco. “I think events like this are helpful to show people we have a common goal.”
Many of the students, faculty and staff marching in support of a ceasefire had a friend or loved one who was directly affected by the war such as UCSC junior Andrew Jordan, who was inspired to walk out of class and march in support of a ceasefire because his partner is Palestinian.
“She has family in Gaza and it’s really heartbreaking to see what’s happening,” said Jordan. “In terms of short-term goals, we want the United States to stop funding Israel and the destruction of Palestine and Palestinians. I think long term, we want the Palestinian people to rebuild their homes and go back to where they live and for the settlers to get out of here.”
Ph.D. student Rebecca Lietz was gathered in the quarry Wednesday to show support for her roommate who hails from Palestine.
UC Santa Cruz students rally on Wednesday at Quarry Plaza on campusagainst Israel’s siege of Gaza . (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)
“I feel like I owed it to him to be here,” said Lietz. “There are so many different perspectives that are out there but it’s not really portrayed in the media that way. I feel like it’s very polarized.”
From the quarry to the Baskin School of Engineering and back, the crowd held its energy and rarely paused from chanting and beckoning other students to join in the march. When the crowd did stop, it was to hear from individual speakers such as Jennifer Mogannam, assistant professor in UCSC’s department of critical race and ethnic studies.
“Thank you all for being here and choosing to walk out in support of the struggle for Palestinian freedom,” said Mogannam. “Today we say no to business as usual, no to the U.S. complicity in the genocide of Palestinian people, and no to the UC’s complicity in the genocide of the Palestinian people.”
Not everyone who marched on campus were students or current teachers. Retired teacher Carolina Martinez was inspired to march with the students and UCSC faculty and staff after learning about the bombings and intense violence happening in Gaza.
“When students stand up and people walk out in the streets, we’re all being courageous,” said Martinez. “It’s scary to speak out and to come out, but that little bit of courage encourages other people to speak their truth.”
UC Santa Cruz students fill Quarry Plaza on Wednesday, voicing opposition to Zionism as a colonial power grab. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)