The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

From May Day to today: Where the encampment is now

Protesters call for the university to divest their funding from supporting Israel
Anne To
Last Friday, President Berenecea Eanes spoke with protesters about their demands for divestment and safety concerns.

Wooden crates, tables, chairs, University Times newspaper boxes and more barricade the front of the University Gym at Cal State LA. Graffiti covers the gym wall with words like “Free Palestine.” Billie Jean King’s statue now holds a Palestine flag instead of her tennis racket, as pro-Palestine protesters reach the ninth day of their encampment on campus.

Remnants of spray paint can be seen on the outside walls of King Hall and the greeting sign at the front of the University, after they were graffitied on Saturday night.

The university sent out a campus-wide email addressing the graffiti.

A wall covered in red spray painted words. In fron are chairs and wooden crates blocking the area.
Graffiti covers the wall of the University Gym that is facing the encampment. Photo by Anne To.

“Over the weekend, several buildings and state property were defaced with graffiti, including some graffiti carrying messages of hate and bigotry, including anti-Semitic rhetoric. We want to acknowledge how deeply upsetting these messages are to targeted groups and emphasize that they do not reflect the values of Cal State LA,” the university said in the email. “Cal State LA unequivocally supports free speech. These activities are not that. Moving and destruction of property, graffiti, erection of structures, blocking of walkways, and fireworks are unlawful acts. Allowing these activities puts students, faculty, staff, and all visitors on campus at risk, particularly those with physical disabilities who need access to cleared entrances and exits.”

In response to the graffiti, the university stated that security around campus has increased and an investigation has been launched to find the individuals responsible.

Safety has been a topic of focus for the university, as Cal State LA President Berencea Eanes emphasized that when she held a surprise visit to the encampment last Friday. 

There she acknowledged the encampment and that she received their demands. A megaphone was passed between Eanes and the protesters as she answered their questions and concerns one by one.

“I’m not here to affirm that I can do all of those things [SJP demands]. I am here to affirm that I am looking into those things [SJP demands],” Eanes said. “I want you to stay safe and stay together. I want to be sure that you are safe and that other students are safe.”

However some of the protesters were not happy with some of her responses.

One asked Eanes if she believed that what was happening in Gaza is a genocide. When Eanes declined to respond, she was met with booing.

“Cal State LA values free speech as essential to higher education and a strong democracy. We are committed to supporting the rights of students and others to assemble peacefully, to protest, and to have their voices heard in a lawful manner that does not pose risks to the safety and well-being of others or to themselves. Our focus is on ensuring that our campus is a safe and welcoming environment. We are continuing to monitor the situation so that it will remain so for everyone,” the university said in a statement to the University Times when asked about the protest and whether they would address their demands. 

It all started on May Day, the first day of the month, when pro-Palestine protesters met at 2 p.m. in front of the Golden Eagle statue to voice their dissent with the university and to make their demands known. The crowd reached at least a hundred as students, faculty, and alumni gathered in support.

The Cal State LA chapter for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) called upon onlookers and supporters to address the alleged genocide against Palestinians as part of the Israel-Hamas war.

“This encampment is inspired by and in solidarity with the 70+ university encampments across the United States and worldwide, and most importantly, Gaza. We aim to call attention to the ongoing violations of Palestinians’ rights under international law,” stated a press release by the SJP.

The protests at Cal State LA started on May 1, which represents International Workers’ Day, a historical date on which people rally for workers’ and immigrant rights. 

Protesters on campus held signs, waved flags, and chanted as they marched down the main walkway of the campus toward the Billie Jean statue in front of the University Gym.

Soon tents were being set up and wooden stakes were being hammered into the ground using rocks. Metal mesh wrapped onto the stakes creating a makeshift fence.

Chairs lined up to create a barrier in front of a building. White signs are hung on the tables with black lettering.
Throughout the week, the encampment has evolved from a makeshift fence to being reinforced with tables, wood, and posters. Photo by Anne To.

Cal State LA’s encampment comes on the heels of the recent college encampments and protests across the country. For instance, students at Columbia University barricading themselves, the dismantlement of UT Austin’s encampment, and UCLA’s clash with counter-protesters.

Cal State LA protesters secured the barrier with zip ties and chairs. Then, their tents emerged, along with their food and supplies. 

A Palestinian flag was ziptied in the hands of the Billie Jean King statue, as the protesters continued to voice their dissent. 

Members of SJP and protesters requested to have their last names redacted or used an alias in order to keep their identities hidden. Many wore black and white Keffiyehs around their faces as a symbol in support of Palestine and to cover their faces.

“We’re building an encampment here, in order to divest from the government of Israel, which is currently committing a genocide in Gaza, over 33,000 Palestinians are dead,” Gale, a member of the SJP media team, said. “As well as companies that are complicit in it, like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, etc.” 

Melina Abdullah, a pan-African studies professor and vice president nominee for Cornel West, shared her support for the protesters. 

“We’re standing up and not allowing the university system to enable genocide, not allow the university to fund genocide, to be here to put themselves on the line,” she said.

In response to the protest, a campus-wide email was sent from the Office of the Vice President for Student Life, acknowledging its significance. 

They provided a list of resources that students could use to help express their thoughts and feelings on the situation. 

 “We want you to know about spaces at Cal State LA where you can ask questions, express your thoughts and engage in meaningful dialogue,” the email stated.

Other encampments at universities across the U.S. have had clashes with counter-protesters and also the police. The day before Cal State LA’s encampment began, the encampment at UCLA was attacked by counter-protesters, while police stood by without interfering for multiple hours, according to the DailyBruin. 

“We’re willing to risk that,” Gale said. “The fact that the police are being called in means that we’re a threat. And it’s regardless of what they do, it’s important that we’re out there to demand that our tuition dollars don’t go to genocide.”

USC’s 2024 commencement ceremony was canceled stating safety concerns after students set up an encampment at Alumni Park, which led to multiple arrests. 

When asked about Cal State LA’s commencement, the university said in a statement to the University Times: “As of now, Cal State LA has no plans to cancel classes or Commencement. We will continue to monitor the situation and are hopeful for a peaceful resolution.”

A yellow newspaper box with a Palestine flag spray painted at the front.
Multiple University Times boxes have been taken an…d to reinforce the encampment. Photo by Anne To.

Valerie Perlovskaya, president of Cal State LA’s Jew-ish club, said that Jewish students have experienced anti-semitism as tensions rise.

“A student who is in the Jew-ish club is a foreign exchange student from Israel, and she has spoken to me about being harassed by students in her dorm,” Perlovskaya said. “I believe that the activists who are pro-Palestine are entitled to their beliefs. I agree that violence should end. My issue is with people believing that the Israeli government is representative of all Jewish people.”

She said that she does not feel safe on campus, and does not think the university is doing enough to support student concerns.

“I am sorry to hear of the impact that some of the posters and events on campus are having on your sense of safety and comfort. Although these are not Cal State LA-endorsed posters and/or activities, as a public institution, Cal State LA upholds freedom of expression even in cases in which speakers may present offensive or objectionable ideas,” Blanca Marinez-Navarro, the associate vice president for student life, said in a statement to the Jew-ish club regarding safety concerns for Jewish students on campus. “Still, as an institution, we are committed to ensuring the safety of our campus community and are prepared to uphold a safe and respectful academic environment amidst any campus activity. This includes enforcing our Time, Place, and Manner policy when appropriate while creating the conditions for students to engage across differences while maintaining a culture of respect.”

Vera, a member of the SJP media team responded to concerns of anti-semitism on campus.

“We denounce anti-semitism,” Vera said. “This is not about anti-semitism. The idea that Jewish people and the Jewish community are of one mind about the state of Israel is in of itself, anti-semitism.”

 Around 8:40 on May 7, Tuesday, the Gaza solidarity encampment hosted around one hundred visitors to the encampment. 

A line formed at the makeshift entrance where camp guards stood security. Music played from a speaker, as visitors were able to come in, observe and interact with the pro-palestine protesters. 

Water bottles and pizza were freely handed out to the surrounding crowd.

Earlier that day, SJP had held an impromptu rally and march, heading towards the Student Services building. 

The rally was held in response to Israel’s invasion of Rafah along the Gaza strip.

The crowd tried to get the attention of President Berenecea Johnson, and demanded action be taken towards the divestment of the Israel supporting companies. After some time, they returned to their encampment, and opened it to visitors for the night.

The air turned tense however, as 10 minutes later, they closed off visitation from the general public into the encampment for the night, encouraging supporters to return the next night. 

As it turned out, there were agitators earlier who had the camp guards on alert, according to statements from protesters.

More updates to come soon to

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About the Contributors
Anne To
Anne To, Editor-In-Chief
Anne To is the Editor in Chief of the UT and also the co-Station manager of the Golden Eagle Radio. She loves working on audio production with radio, podcasting, and more! You may have seen some of her comics with the Life of Biffy series. During her free time she is either taking a nap, or playing video games.  
Adriana Davila
Adriana Davila, Senior Multimedia Reporter
Adriana Davila is a Multimedia Reporter for the University Times and a third year journalism major. Her favorite stories to write are on student affairs. Adriana is also a theatre minor, and you can always find her performing in a show on campus. In her free time, Adriana is probably singing, writing music, or watching her favorite tv show.
Brian Lai
Brian Lai, Community News Digital Editor & Distribution Manager
Brian Lai is an English major, and an UT reporter that writes mostly about Calstate LA’s campus. He covers campus events, issues and highlights, and other related topics. 
Calista Pineda, Multimedia Reporter & Videographer
Calista Pineda is a multimedia reporter and videographer for the University Times. She is a television, film and media major with a minor in journalism, combining her skills to create innovative and compelling stories. Pineda has an interest in field reporting and documentary filmmaking, as she is always on the hunt for a story. When not reporting for the UT, she is either exploring her surroundings, tapping into her creativity through music or trying new things.

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