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Palestine solidarity on two Southern California campuses

While pro-Palestine encampments sprung up at major universities across the United States, Héctor Rivera and Dana Cloud found spirited, inspiring protests on their own campuses, Pasadena City College and California State University, Fullerton.

Pasadena City College Walkout for Gaza

More than 200 students and faculty gathered in the mirror pools on the Pasadena City College campus and walked out for Gaza on Tuesday, April 30. The action comes in the wake of a wave of student occupations across college campuses in solidarity with Palestine and the violent police crackdown on the encampments.

A crowd of about forty demonstrators stand under a grove of trees listening to speakers standing next to a pool.
Photo by Héctor A. Rivera.

The action was organized by the PCC Antiwar Club and supporting organizations, including a budding chapter of Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP).  The Antiwar Club has held actions for Palestine since the fall including a walkout early in the war. This time the turnout was considerably larger and better organized with chants, sign making and a march across campus.

Ashley, a founding member of the PCC Antiwar club, was impressed by the turnout saying,

We did a walkout last fall and the crowd is so much bigger than it was last time. The protests at university campuses have really increased our momentum here and I’m excited about what we’re doing today.

Together with the Environmental Club, students are calling on the administration to divest from fossil fuels and weapons manufacturers. The club also continues to protest Congressperson Judy Chu, who has blamed Palestinians for the unfolding genocide,  at the weekly vigil held at her offices on Lake Ave.

At the rally, Amy, a faculty member supporting FJP, was also impressed by the solidarity on campus after faculty and students launched a visibility campaign to identify Palestine supporters on campus.

If you look around you see a lot of keffiyehs in all their different shades and colors. We also see a lot of people wearing pins, particularly faculty. Because of scholasticide and the repression of discussion around Palestine, faculty are standing up and letting students know they’re safe in their classes and that they have solidarity and are ready to push back. Because of this visibility campaign our numbers have grown and we’re starting a chapter of FJP.

In the fall, the administration rejected a proposal for a teach-in on Gaza during Indigenous People’s week. In response, faculty students, and members of Tempest collaborated on a teach-in hosted at All Saints Episcopal Church.

A group of people marches carrying a Palestinian flag and signs reading Zionism is fascism and Israel bombs babies.
Photo by Héctor A. Rivera.

Despite the presence of a Zionist instigator at the rally,  the march across campus was peaceful and spirited. The march ended at the mirror pools with traffic honking in support. The Antiwar Club and faculty plan to continue organizing to rally campus support for their demands of divestment and to continue building the movement for Palestine on campus.

Hundreds protest at California State University, Fullerton

On Monday, April 29, about 400 students gathered on the main quad of the Fullerton campus of the California State University to demonstrate support for Palestinian liberation and against Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza. Fullerton is a quiet commuter campus, so the size and militancy of this demonstration was a welcome surprise.

The event was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine. Speakers emphasized the genocidal character of Israel’s siege, the bankruptcy of Zionism as a settler-colonial ideology, the responsibility of Benjamin Netanyahu for the genocide, and U.S. complicity with the Israeli state in its waging of this genocidal campaign. Speakers called for the University to divest from companies supporting Israel.

a group of protesters carrying signs calling for an end to Israel's war on Gaza
Photo by Dana Cloud.

Speakers led the crowd in a call and response with such chants as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”; “Hey Netanyahu, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?”; “We will honor all our martyrs–all the children, sons and daughters (all the parents, mothers and fathers)”; “Free free Palestine!”; and “Long live the Intifada!” Signaling the radical turn the movement has taken since the eruption of protests on campuses across the country, the crowd was clearly aligned with these chants and responded with enthusiasm.

The organizers led the crowd in a march, with the Palestinian flag flying high, along a main road abutting the campus, and we received many honks and cheers from passers-by.

I spoke to two demonstrators with distinctive perspectives. Celio Torres is a student veteran, who served as a medic and dental technician in the U.S. Navy. He said he served “on the blue side and the green side,” meaning that he was stationed both with the Navy and the Marines.

Although he did not serve in Afghanistan or Iraq, his knowledge of the wars made him critical of them and of U.S. imperialism. He said that he came out to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians, as well as activists, volunteers, and journalists who worked in Gaza. Speaking of how his military experience led him to take a stand against the war and against imperialism more broadly, he said,

The reason why I served was because I wanted to give back, not just to my community, but to my nation and my country. During my service, I came to realize that a lot of the things that we’d been doing had been wrong, going back to like 9/11, with the invasion of Iraq and the invasion of Afghanistan. The million Iraqis that were killed. I just really have sympathy for those people, because they had absolutely nothing to do with what happened, and we just took it out on them. And after August 2021, the pullout from Afghanistan. The casualties that occurred there in the 20 years of the occupation from the beginning were pretty much all for nothing. And I don’t want that to happen ever again. I don’t want any American to have to go to a foreign nation and to die for no reason. Or to kill innocent people. It’s horrible. It’s heinous.  And I want to make sure that every veteran can at least ask why we were even there.

Asked why he thought the U.S. supports Israel, he said, “Israel’s our proxy. They want to have Israel there so that we can steal the natural resources. I mean, it’s imperialism.”

a crowd of marchers carrying Palestinian flags and signs on a university campus
Photo by Dana Cloud.

Celio told me that this demonstration was his first-ever protest, and he loved it:

It was awesome. Honestly, it inspired me and gave me hope. Because it’s one thing to see it, on Instagram or online, the photos and videos, but when you are actually in the rally, and you’re with like-minded individuals, and they want to advocate for change, I think that is empowering in itself. And I hope more people get inspired by it, and more people come out and support the Palestinians.

Aasil Abdel Karim lives with his family in the Fullerton community. They are Palestinian. He said that they were out to “show support to the young people.”

We are inspired by all of the amazing rallies and campus events that we’ve seen over the country over the last two weeks. This is a cause that’s been dear to my heart for my entire life. I am amazed by the outpouring of support and the courage of these young people. The U.S. is complicit because we are the nation that is sending the bombs and providing moral, financial, and diplomatic support that enables Israel to carry out the dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Both Abdel Karim and Torres believe that the student protests are making an impact. Abdel Karim said, “I’m hoping that they will carry this activism throughout their lives and continue to fight all forms of injustice, because what’s happening in Palestine, in Gaza, right now is a genocide.”

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Dana Cloud and Héctor A. Rivera View All

Dana Cloud is a Tempest Collective member and scholar of Marxism, popular culture, and social movements currently teaching at California State University, Fullerton.

Héctor A. Rivera is a queer, Mexican-American, socialist educator. A member of the Tempest Collective, he lives in Los Ángeles, Califaztlán.