Hundreds of students and community members walked out and gathered in front of Sproul Hall on Wednesday as part of demonstrations coordinated across the U.S. by the National Students for Justice in Palestine.
The walkout began just before 12:30 p.m., with speakers calling for a free Palestine, campus divestment from companies that have ties with Israel and a ceasefire in Gaza.
To commemorate Palestinian lives lost, walkout organizers strung up thousands of painted cotton rounds across the plaza, each representing a Palestinian death since the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war.
The walkout was organized by campus groups including UC Berkeley Graduate Students for Palestine, Bears for Palestine, Law Students for Justice in Palestine, Palestinian Public Health and the Cal Muslim Student Association. Seven other Bay Area universities walked out Wednesday, including Stanford, University of San Francisco and City College of San Francisco.
On Berkeley’s campus, speakers called on students to email demands to Chancellor Carol Christ, urging campus to protect the safety of Palestinian students. During the event, students scanned a QR code and sent individual emails from a premade template.
“We call on you, as the Chancellor, to use your power and abundant resources to protect all of your students regardless of their ethnicity or national origin, including Palestinian students,” the email template states.
While campus had no statement on the demands of protestors, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof noted campus administration received “multiple” reports of classes and sections being canceled.
A campus-wide statement from Executive Vice Provost Benjamin Hermalin, released during the protest, reminded faculty of university policy prohibiting the canceling of classes for “the purpose of encouraging students to participate in a protest or rally.”
Students were not alone in their demonstration, with some faculty giving speeches and encouraging demonstrations.
Campus professor of Middle Eastern Languages and Culture Hatem Bazian was one of the campus professors who spoke at the walkout.
Bazian praised students protesting, adding he and other faculty support students continuing to demonstrate amid reports of doxxing and student fears of harassment for their organizing. He noted that faculty across the university are forming a coalition for justice in Palestine.
“In the past few weeks there has been a growing movement of people who want to raise their voices in support of Palestine,” said walkout organizer Lara Kiswani from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. “In particular, there has been interest from student groups — both high school and college students — to demonstrate and take action.”
The walkout was the largest on-campus demonstration regarding the Israel-Hamas war since Hamas’ attack Oct. 7. Around 20 individuals were peacefully holding Israeli flags, which were obstructed by Palestinian flags and cloth.
An attempted robbery on Upper Sproul occurred during the protest. According to a campus WarnMe sent during the Sproul demonstration, the suspect attempted to grab a student’s backpack, flag and water bottle, and hit the student with the student’s water bottle.
Eye-witnesses at the demonstration said the victim was holding an Israeli flag. However, as of press time, UCPD Sergeant Patrick O’Donnell noted that it was unclear what flag the victim was holding.
The walkout ended at 4:14 p.m., leading to a dispersal of students and community members from Sproul. Some individuals stayed to participate in a group prayer.
Vani Suresh, Joann Moon, Rae Wymer, Chanyoung Chung contributed to this report.