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Hundreds amass at CSULB for 'Justice in Palestine' rally

Students at Cal State Long Beach gathered on campus to call for divestment from Israel and a ceasefire in Gaza on Thursday.

Hundreds amass at CSULB for 'Justice in Palestine' rally
Crowds gathered at Cal State Long Beach on Thursday morning to demand the university divest from Israel and demand a ceasefire in Gaza. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

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Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered at Cal State Long Beach on Thursday morning around 11 a.m. to join a coalition of students at campuses across the U.S. who are calling on universities to divest from Israel or companies that have supported the war in Gaza.

The Long Beach campus kicked off its protest and join the students for justice in Palestine movement several hours after, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, some 200 were arrested at the university of California Los Angeles, early Thursday morning.

PHOTOS: Over 1,000 people join peaceful pro-Palestine rally at Cal State Long Beach

Brandon Richardson • May 2, 2024

More than 1,000 students, faculty and other supporters gathered at Cal State Long Beach Thursday for a pro-Palestine rally, joining a growing number of similar gatherings at universities across the country. From 11 a.m. to after 8 p.m., people peacefully protested, demanding the university divest from Israel and defense companies such as Boeing, Raytheon…

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Shortly after the rally began, the university responded.

“University leadership has heard student concerns about whether we are supporting the war in Gaza through our investments. The short answer is, no,” Scott Apel, the university’s vice president for administration and finance, wrote in a statement.

“The University does not purchase individual stocks as part of our investment programs; our assets instead taking the form of blended funds. That said, in the case of the university’s 49er Foundation, which holds the institution’s endowment, many efforts have been made over the past few years to create a portfolio that consciously reflects environmentally and socially responsible investing as a general approach by the Foundation’s investment managers. Investments held by supporting organizations to the university are for the express purpose of supporting our students.”

By mid-morning, nearly 1,000 had gathered around E. James Brotman Hall, the campus’ administrative building. At 12:26 p.m., the CSULB Police Department urged campus members to avoid the area and said that some walkways may be inaccessible. Two other tweets from CSULB police were sent during the afternoon, warning of protest activity and to “use caution” when entering the area.

By 2 p.m., protesters had fastened a banner to the entrance of the hall, re-naming the building “Rafaat Alareer Hall” after a Palestinian professor, poet and activist who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Shajaiya, in northern Gaza, on Dec. 6, 2023.

The announcement came after pro-Palestine protesters set up barriers at Brotman Hall, where some students were confronting protesters.

Meanwhile, a large crowd sat peacefully in the area and listened as rally leaders list “atrocities” unfolding in Gaza.

One speaker, who identified as Jewish, decried Zionism, which is defined as a nationalist movement that has supported the creational of a Jewish national state in Palestine.

"While we're talking about antisemitism, you know what it isn't? Protesting for a free Palestine," the speaker told the crowd over a megaphone.

"As Jews, we are supposed to commit ourselves to service, activism, and standing up for the oppressed. We are supposed to raise our voices against genocide,” the speaker said. “I am deeply, deeply ashamed of Zionist Jews that call themselves, compassionate people. That is a lie. In what world can you be proud to stand with a country country that has wiped all living members of families off the face of the earth?"

Israel and its allies have continued to argue that the country has a right to defend itself in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that started the war. But Israeli leaders have faced growing pressure to dial back their aggression and let more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

In a news release from CSULB Divest says it is joining “an international student movement calling for an end to the genocide and demanding academic institutions to disclose full financial investments and divest from companies that profit from Israel apartied, genocide, and military occupation of Palestine.”

In addition to Thursday morning’s rally and march through the campus, SJP says it will organize teach-ins and workshops led by professors and community members.

“In 2017, the CSULB Associated Students, Inc. passed a resolution calling on the university to divest from weapons manufacturing,” the news release from CSULB Divest and SPJ-CSULB reads. “Organizers see the urgency to return to this conversation…”

CSULB professors and instructors also released their own statement under Faculty for Justice in Palestine-CSULB.

“We proudly stand with CSULB students who are taking action to voice their outrage, condemn genocide, and support a free Palestine. These students inspire us to practice our values and be courageous in the face of fear and intimidation. We urge and expect all administrators, faculty, staff, and government officials to take a stance in solidarity with our students,” members wrote.

Read the full statement here.

Beach Hillel, which provides Jewish programs and services to students on campus, sent out a memo via email Wednesday afternoon ahead of the rally — which it characterized as being “anti-Israel” — stating the organization had been “in communication with the university administration and campus security, to ensure that they're doing everything possible to provide support and keep Jewish students safe.”

The email from Executive Director ChayaLeah Sufrin invited students to Pizza and Parsha at Hillel, intended to “provide a safe space for Jewish joy and celebration.”

“The most important priority for Beach Hillel is keeping Jewish students safe — first, foremost, and always. Jewish students at CSULB should be able to express their full Jewish identities and support for the Jewish state without fear, in a learning environment that is free of hostility,” Sufrin stated in the email.

Watchdog reporters Alicia Robinson and Kat Schuster contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This report had been updated to include an email to students from Beach Hillel, an on-campus Jewish community organization.

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