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UC Berkeley students hold demonstration to support people of Gaza

UC Berkeley students walk out to support Palestinians but fear repercussions
UC Berkeley students walk out to support Palestinians but fear repercussions 03:26

Thousands of students across the Bay Area walked out of classes Wednesday as part of a planned demonstration to show support for the people of Gaza during the ongoing conflict.

One of the largest demonstrations was at UC Berkeley where more than a thousand people gathered in Sproul Plaza.

"What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" chanted dozens of protestors as they walked toward the rally at the plaza.

Many of the people holding signs and flats at the demonstration were wearing some type of mask.

"Out of concern for my future and a concern for my family's wellbeing, I don't want to be identified," one protestor said. 

The Berkeley student did not want to give KPIX 5 his name, saying he fears the repercussions of attending the rally.

"There's a lot of backlash coming at people who are in support of this and mischaracterizations of their opinions. And that mischaracterization leads to people losing jobs, getting kicked out and expelled from school, having future job offers completely wiped off the board," said the unnamed student.

He points out the irony of the current situation given that the Free Speech Movement started at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, yet many of the students who attended Wednesday's rally say they are afraid of publicly supporting Palestine.

They pointed to numerous examples of backlash they say they could face, including on the UC Berkeley campus where corporate law professor Steven Solomon recently wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled "Don't Hire My Anti-Semetic Law Students".

On the East Coast, students at Harvard and NYU have had job offers revoked or been blacklisted by employers after signing letters expressing support for the people of Palestine.

"For a lot of these people who don't have a covering on, I mean, I admire their bravery, right? But for me it's just that I have a certain fear as an Arab and as a Muslim that I might be identified, I might be watched, I might be like monitored," said the unidentified student.

"I'm just here, not by any means to counter-protest. I'm actually just here to visualize for myself who I need to stay away from," said UC Berkeley student Vida Keyvan Frank, who is a senior. 

She said some of the chants at the rally like "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" are suggestive of wiping Israel off the map.

"Most of the people here don't even know what they're standing up for. It's just a trendy thing to follow at Berkeley, and around here you can be canceled for standing on the wrong side of history," she said.

There is another demonstration planned for Friday at UC Berkeley – in support of Israel.

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