Opinion | January 18th, 2024

Continuing the legacy of UC Berkeley Activism

By: UC Berkeley Bears for Palestine  

On October 7th, 2023, Palestine was brought into the limelight as an aggressor. Nearly three months and 25,000 dead Palestinians later, Palestine and its supporters are still painted as aggressors. To the brown and black communities of the United States, we have become accustomed to this mischaracterization of our actions and voices. Yet, this has not stopped generations of work towards fighting imperialist structures and demanding change. Berkeley has become the centerpiece of freedom movements, through the hard work of college students and locals alike. 

 

The reason why UC Berkeley has become a centerpiece of movements is because of its complicity in crimes against humanity, starting with the Native people of Berkeley. UC Berkeley excavated Native American bodies as they began building their institution. Over a century later, UC Berkeley continues to hold almost 15,000 Native remains in captivity, despite the enactment of NAGPRA in 1990 deeming this illegal. Indigenous students have protested using multiple avenues, perhaps most notably the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island. Organized by UC Berkeley Indigenous students, the movement grew to over 100 protesters and lasted over 19 months. The steadfast dedication of young Native Americans led to the United States adopting a policy of self-determination for Indian Americans as President Nixon began returning some land to Indigenous tribes.

 

As Palestinians, we face similar challenges of colonization, forced displacement, and erasure of our history. The Indigenous community at Berkeley and abroad has been supportive of our demands for a free Palestine. UC Berkeley currently invests millions of dollars in weapon companies such as Blackrock, that have violently targeted Palestinian communities. In the past few weeks, Palestinians have followed examples of previous Native American leaders in acts of civil disobedience. Recently, Palestinians shut down the Bay Bridge to attract public attention to the genocide in Gaza, as over 30,000 human beings were killed.   

 

Although previous examples stated concern domestic issues, it is not the first time UC Berkeley students have opposed foreign wars. UC Berkeley students protested for divestment from South Africa, and the University of California system was finally divested in 1986, almost a decade after Hampton College was the first American university to divest. Similarly, UC Berkeley students protested against the Vietnam War on and around campus, which propelled the Free Speech Movement on campus. Years later, the fight for free speech continues as UC Berkeley reprimands faculty who speak out in support of Palestine and staff outwardly shame students for expressing anti–Israel sentiments.

 

Fast forward to four months after the genocidal campaign in Gaza, Palestinian Americans are still steadfast in their demands for a ceasefire. We follow in the steps of UC Berkeley alumni as we fight for the right side of history. We are pressing our university administration to divest from companies supporting Israeli apartheid. We are holding teach-ins to inform our campus community of this crisis and how it affects them. We are raising funds to support displaced and injured civilians in Palestine. When we graduate, we will use the skills we learn from school to rebuild Palestine, treat our injured, and hold the criminals responsible. Our fight doesn’t end with a ceasefire in Gaza but with a liberated Palestine. It might take months or years, but the one thing Palestinians have in abundance is faith and perseverance. 

 

Until Justice and Liberation

Bears for Palestine

 

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