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Pro-Palestinian Activists Occupy Abandoned UC Berkeley Building Near People’s Park

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Tents fill the yard at Anna Head Alumnae Hall in Berkeley on May 16, 2024, an abandoned UC Berkeley building near People’s Park that is occupied by pro-Palestinian activists. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters are occupying an abandoned UC Berkeley building near People’s Park, setting up just a day after students ended a sprawling encampment on campus.

UC Berkeley is treating the protest, which began Wednesday afternoon, as a criminal act, though no arrests have yet been made, said Dan Mogulof, a university spokesperson.

“We are treating the site as an active crime scene,” Mogulof said. “This is not nonviolent civil disobedience.”

According to the university, roughly 60 people are occupying Anna Head Alumnae Hall, a historic site built in 1927 and acquired by UC Berkeley in 1964 that is now boarded up and in disrepair. Mogulof said the site is unsafe.

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A dozen tents remained outside the building Thursday. Boards and crates were piled on the front lawn to form a makeshift fence, and on Instagram, protesters asked for more supplies to fortify the fence. Food and water were laid out on tables standing against the building, suggesting the campers intend a long stay. A dozen private security guards roamed the perimeter.

Signs hung by the protesters and graffiti on the building read “Free Gaza” and “Avenge Al Shifa,” referring to Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, whose destruction has “broken the backbone” of the region’s ailing health system, according to the World Health Organization.

Protesters allege 18% of the university’s $32 billion California endowment is “invested in assets that support Israeli occupation.”

Photos of graffiti inside the building equating Zionism to Nazism and the Star of David to a swastika were shared online by the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, which said it was “deeply disturbed.”

Barricades and flags surround Anna Head Alumnae Hall in Berkeley on May 16, 2024, an abandoned UC Berkeley building near People’s Park that is occupied by pro-Palestinian activists. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

According to Mogulof, the occupation was not initiated by the coalition that the university agreed with Tuesday to end the weeks-long encampment on campus. “Some portion” of the protesters occupying the building “appear to be students,” he said.

UC Berkeley Graduate Students for Justice in Palestine, a protest group, pushed back against the university’s support of a police response to the occupation.

“Let it be clear: the administration CAN NOT and MUST NOT respond to the protesters occupying Hind’s House with police violence,” the group wrote on Instagram, using a new moniker for the building from protesters. “Sanctioning police brutality will only entrench UC Berkeley further in their genocidal complicity.”

A message says, “This is 4 Hind” on a window at Anna Head Alumnae Hall in Berkeley on May 16, 2024, an abandoned UC Berkeley building near People’s Park that is occupied by pro-Palestinian activists. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The group critiqued Mogulof in particular, saying he is trying to divide pro-Palestinian advocates.

“We reject the ‘good protester’ vs ‘bad protester’ and ‘inside’ vs ‘outside’ dichotomy,” the group wrote. “We are united in this movement.”

The occupation of Anna Head Alumnae Hall comes as protesters continue pressuring academic institutions in California. On Wednesday, several hundred pro-Palestinian protesters entered a UC Irvine building and surrounded it, leading police to arrest 50 people, according to ABC News. A UC Board of Regents’ Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting was disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters on UC Merced’s campus, according to local NPR affiliate KVPR.

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