SANTA CRUZ — Hundreds of UC Santa Cruz students, faculty and community members gathered at the base of UC Santa Cruz campus Thursday to show support for the Palestinian people and end to the latest war between Israel and Hamas, now in its second month.
According to the Associated Press, the number of Palestinians killed in the war has risen to 10,818, including more than 4,400 children. In the occupied West Bank, more than 160 Palestinians have been killed in the violence and Israeli raids. More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
The gathering at UCSC on Thursday was part of a global call to action known as “Shut it Down for Palestine,” which was organized by international and national groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine. One of the organizers for the UCSC Students for Justice in Palestine, who preferred to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, stressed that the gathering was about peace and justice and the cessation of war.
“People think that this movement stems from anti-semitism or a hatred for Jewish people, and that’s not at all the case,” said the student organizer. “This is about people being able to live in peace, side-by-side, and being able to live without having to worry about being brutalized or living under an occupation. We invite all of our Jewish brothers and sisters to come and stand with us and so many have. This isn’t about one group versus another. It’s about bringing people together and humanity and justice for all.”
Just after 11 a.m., protesters began to line up at along the crosswalks of High and Bay streets, blocking the university’s main entrance. Cars, trucks and buses were backed up for hundreds of feet until vehicles were gradually allowed through with the aid of protest organizers and police officers. University staff and police then formed a perimeter of detours around the gathering.
As those gathered formed human chains at each of the four sides of the intersection, chanting, UCSC sophomore Ruby Stewart was creating a picket sign at a station set up by the organizers.
“So much violence is going on right now in Gaza and I think that it fits the definition of a genocide,” said Stewart. “Anti-Zionism is not antisemitic. I am Jewish myself. I stand for life and I stand for happiness and liberty for all people, and what’s going on in Gaza right now is the opposite of that. It’s death and horror and terror enacted by our tax dollars and I can’t stand for that.”
UCSC senior Lexi Krauel and others were busy on the lawn adjacent to the intersection chopping up piles of potatoes and carrots for a massive pot of soup they were planning on serving to protesters.
“We’re just trying to feed people,” said Krauel. “You can’t expect people to feel like they have the wherewithal to unite if they’re not nourished. It’s the least we could do.”
In addition to free soup, water bottles and snacks were hauled to the base of campus by volunteers such as Santa Cruz City Council candidate Joe Thompson, who is still running unopposed in the city’s newly created District 5.
“The Palestinian people right now are facing a major collective punishment from Israel and I wish more political people in Santa Cruz, especially on the council, would recognize what’s happening and call it what it is, and call for a ceasefire,” said Thompson. “For me, it’s important to stand for justice whether it’s economic justice or racial justice or making sure people have a safe place to live.”
Not everyone gathered in the intersection was associated with the university. Many community members, young and old, had gathered to show their support for an end to the Israel-Hamas war such as the longtime peace advocate and Santa Cruz resident who goes by the name Sea Otter and kept the crowd’s chanting on time with a large drum.
Santa Cruz resident and UCSC course assistant Cyreine Adams felt guilty for skipping out on her office hours to join the gathering, but was proud to be united with hundreds of others in support of peace at the base of campus.
“I hope that people come here and get inspired to mobilize and do things in addition to just coming out today,” said Adams. “This is just one piece of the puzzle, and I hope that people also reach out to their representatives.”