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Pro-Palestinian Protesters Stay Put on UCSF Campus a Day After Initial Police Sweep

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The student protest encampment that was set up again Tuesday outside Kalmanovitz Library at the UCSF campus, San Francisco, on May 14, 2024. (Courtesy of ucsf4palestine via Instagram)

Updated 5 p.m. Tuesday

Pro-Palestinian protesters who re-established an encampment at UC San Francisco remained there Tuesday afternoon, a day after UC police took down tents and arrested one person.

UCSF students and faculty first set up the camp at Kalmanovitz Library on Monday morning to call for the university to disclose its investments and divest from weapons manufacturers and Israeli-affiliated organizations as the Israel-Hamas war and intense bombardment of Gaza continues into its seventh month.

On Monday afternoon, UC police removed tents and arrested one person who was given a citation and released, said Hadi, who shared only her first name and described herself only as “affiliated with UCSF” for fear of retaliation. After the police action, at least 20 protesters pitched tents again and stayed the night, she said.

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“This morning, police told us that they were going to sweep us again if we didn’t take them down,” Hadi said Tuesday. Protestors complied, and removed the tents but remained at the site as of Tuesday afternoon.

The response from administration and campus police has been “repressive,” Hadi said, but many protesters intend to stay.

“As the first graduate health care institution to set up something like this, we need to show up,” Hadi told KQED. “I know we have a lot at stake but we’re hitting a sore spot and we need to keep escalating because the health care infrastructure in Palestine is being — has been — decimated.”

The camp is the latest to spring up at a UC campus, which have now each had a camp protesting the Israeli offensive in Gaza. UCSF’s camp is meant to be in solidarity with those at the other UC campuses and the scores of others at universities across the U.S., said Jess Ghannam, a professor of psychiatry and global health at UCSF.

“We’re part of a very large movement right now that is in line with our free speech and academic freedom rights to speak and to demonstrate,” said Ghannam. “What seems really different about what’s happening now is the intensity of the aggressive response, with lack of negotiation, with lack of any attempt to engage in a discussion about what the demands are.”

The protesters had been informed multiple times prior to Monday’s police action that their camp was in violation of fire codes and the university’s “policies governing expressive activities,” according to a UCSF statement.

An update posted on ucsf4palestine’s Instagram Tuesday said the university has “deep ties and allegiance” to Israel, through partnerships with Israeli-aligned organizations like the Helen Diller Foundation, which has donated at least $1 billion to UCSF, according to its website. The post also listed demands directed at the university’s chancellor including to “divest from all companies, programs, and organizations profiting from and aiding the occupation and genocide.”

A UCSF spokesperson declined to comment on the university’s affiliations.

The post also said protestors were “alarmed” that an “institution that prides itself as a leader in global health would stay silent at the utter destruction of hospitals in Gaza.”

Meanwhile, at the University of San Francisco, administrators gave students a 3 p.m. deadline to voluntarily leave the encampment on Welch Field without facing internal discipline for violating “time, place, and manner restrictions” on protests, university officials wrote to encampment representatives after a meeting Monday.

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“The university is continuing to look prioritize communication, dialogue, and de-escalation with the protesters. Our conversations have been shaped by the expectation that protesters recognize the need to balance free expression with safety and respectful dialogue,” the university said in a statement Tuesday. “There are no plans to involve law enforcement as long as the encampment is peaceful and nonviolent.”

But on Tuesday, USF student and protest organizer Susu Steyteyieh said some demonstrators had no plans to leave.

“We got the solid core that’s adamant on staying here indefinitely … we want stuff to get done,” Steyteyieh said. “It’s really on the school on how they’re going to respond, because we’ve been here peacefully protesting for the past 16 days.”

At San José State University, students started an encampment with about a dozen tents Monday ahead of graduation ceremonies next week. University officials have asked the students to take down their tents but have not set a deadline.

Sang Kil, a professor of justice studies and co-chair of the Palestine, Arab and Muslim Caucus of the California Faculty Association, said she is proud of the students and hopes more faculty members are inspired to join the protest.

“Because students are really risking themselves right now,” she said. “They risk doxing. They risk intimidation. They risk counterprotesters.”

KQED’s Christopher Alam contributed reporting to this story.

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