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Pro-Palestinian demonstrations are exploding at universities across the country, including UC Berkeley. 

“We are standing inspired by our students over at Columbia, who we consider to be the heart of the student movement,” says Malak Afaneh. 

Afaneh is a law student at UC Berkeley. You might recognize her from a video that went viral in April, when UC Berkeley law professor Catherine Fisk put her hands on Afaneh while she was in the middle of staging a protest at Fisk’s home. 

Afaneh joined dozens of others outside of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley on Tuesday. 

“We’re here today to amplify our four main demands. One that the UC end their silence and categorize this as a genocide. Two, to demand utter UC divestment from any contracts with weapons, arms manufacturers,” she said. 

According to organizers, the UC has invested more than two billion dollars in companies like BlackRock, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin. 

“Three, to demand academic boycott. And four, to stop the repression, hands off our students and hands off Palestine,” Afaneh says. 

Protests at Yale and Columbia escalated when mass arrests began, but so far, UC’s administration has not initiated any arrests outside of Sproul Hall. 

An organizer named Leila, who declined to give her last name for fear of being doxxed, says that Berkeley’s approach has been consistent. 

“They have been more into surveilling and, um, implementing obscure laws to prevent us from organizing, but they are less inclined to use direct force.” 

Leila said that before the sit-in began, organizers had been blocking Sather Gate for more than nine weeks.  It’s the end of the semester at UC Berkeley, and many students said they are struggling to juggle academic demands with the protests.  Oliver Crawford is studying conservation and resource studies at UC Berkeley. He wasn’t able to camp out, but he supported the protest. 

“We’re homeless. Everyone here is struggling. No healthcare. We’re dying in the streets. And then we’re just helping another country kill innocent people in the streets and their homes, in their beds. It’s, it’s, it’s insane,” he said. 

UC spokesperson Dan Mogulof said, “We will take the steps necessary to ensure the protest does not disrupt the university’s operations.” But that, “There are no plans to change the university’s investment policies and practices.” 

Organizers vow to continue staging protests until their demands are met. 

Wren Farrell is a writer, producer, and journalist living in San Francisco.