Watch CBS News

Pro-Palestinian protesters occupy condemned off-campus UC Berkeley building

Offshoot pro-Palestinian protest takes over vacant UC Berkeley hall
Offshoot pro-Palestinian protest takes over vacant UC Berkeley hall 05:03

A group of pro-Palestinian protesters on Wednesday occupied an abandoned building on the UC Berkeley campus in hopes of bringing attention to what they describe as a genocide in Gaza, according to organizers. 

The group took over an abandoned building in UC Berkeley's Anna Head complex near People's Park in Berkeley's Southside neighborhood, two blocks from campus. 

The protesters were cleared out on Thursday evening according to Dan Mogulof, a UC Berkeley spokesman who informed KPIX that police had made a number of arrests.

The building was boarded up following a fire in 2022. 

Some protesters entered the former Institute for the Study of Societal Issues building through square holes in the surrounding fencing to occupy it, while most protesters occupied the grassy area outside of the fence. Protesters inside of the fence erected banners and spray-painted slogans on the building in red paint. 

"This is Hind Hall [sic]," one piece of graffiti reads, referencing the occupation of Hind's Hall at Columbia University. Hind's Hall was unofficially renamed from Hamilton Hall during April protests in New York City by pro-Palestinian protesters in honor of a 6-year-old girl, Hind Rajab, who was killed in the conflict in Gaza. 

The building's occupation Wednesday sparked a response from both police and UC Berkeley, who released a WarnMe notification at 7:06 p.m. stating that several dozen people with sticks, pry bars, and bolt cutters broke into the building and broke windows, cut fences, and spray-painted walls. 

Police asked people to avoid the area all afternoon and into the evening, though there have been no reports of any arrests as of 9 p.m.  

Protesters said they staged the building takeover in memory of the destruction of Al-Shifa hospital, the largest medical center in the Gaza Strip, now in ruins.  

The core group is hoping to dissociate themselves from encampments that have been pacified in recent negotiations with universities and colleges and to bring awareness to what they called the genocide in Gaza as well as the impact of colonial institutions, said one organizer, who declined to provide their name in fear of arrest. 

Thursday morning, there were a number of tents were visible on the lawn outside the building. 

The Anna Head occupation comes just two days after the pro-Palestinian encampment in front of UC Berkeley's Sproul Hall disbanded. That encampment dispersed partially to head to a protest in Merced at a University of California Board of Regents meeting scheduled for Wednesday, and partially in response to UC Berkeley's promise to examine investments in Israel in recent negotiations. 

Pro-Palestinian protesters occupied the grassy area around Sproul Plaza on UC Berkeley's campus for 22 days to pressure the university to divest from Israel, before Chancellor Carol Christ released a statement which promised to examine UC Berkeley's ties to the Israeli government and declared her support for a ceasefire. Her statement noted that the Regents of the University of California control investments. 

According to the agreement reached with chancellor Carol Christ, the university has agreed to look at whether companies it invests in align with its values. The focus would be on companies that might be involved in weapons manufacturing, mass incarceration or surveillance.

In a letter, Christ also said that she plans to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

"I, too, am concerned about the horrific killing of tens of thousands of Palestinians as well as the destruction of the Palestinian educational infrastructure. I plan to make a public statement by the end of the month sharing my personal support for government officials' efforts to secure an immediate and permanent ceasefire," Christ said in a statement. "Such support for the plight of Palestinians, including protest, should not be conflated with hatred or antisemitism."

Organizers of the building takeover on Wednesday put out calls for more protesters to join them in a series of group chats beginning around 2:15 p.m., and new protestors began filtering in from throughout Berkeley.  

The building's occupation grew throughout the day as word spread about the occupation, and more and more people showed up.  UC Berkeley first sent out a WarnMe notification to avoid the area "due to police activity" at 1:49 p.m. 

Calls for more participants were sent out by protesters on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, at about 2:30 p.m., before UC Berkeley released another WarnMe at 3:25 p.m. asking people to avoid the area, without providing any additional information on the situation. 

Protesters outside of the building's fenced area erected tents, used a bullhorn for speeches, and used chalk to draw on the sidewalk. 

UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor Dan Mogulof said the building's occupation is illegal. 

"This is a crime scene," he said. "We don't see this as civil disobedience by any stretch of the imagination, and we have confirmed that the coalition we reached an understanding with yesterday did not initiate this action." 

Mogulof said the occupying group has not issued demands to the university, and that the university will not be engaging in negotiations with them. Although participants are wearing masks, Mogulof said they hope to identify them in the future. 

Organizers said that, although they have not yet published demands, that their wants are obvious through their actions and the text on their banners. However, they planned to officially release demands later Wednesday night. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.