Pro-Palestinian group takes over UC Berkeley building; university calls it ‘crime scene’

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Even after UC Berkeley officials struck a deal with student leaders of the university’s longstanding pro-Palestinian encampment, a group of protesters took over an abandoned building on campus Wednesday, and some were later arrested.

The protesters occupied Anna Head Alumnae Hall, a condemned building on campus that they unofficially renamed for a Palestinian child killed this year during Israeli military operations in Gaza. The building takeover began Wednesday, one day after demonstrators removed their tents from one of the nation’s longest and largest encampments following an agreement with university officials.

About 24 hours after the group occupied the building — dropping banners and Palestinian flags from windows and pitching tents outside — police in riot gear from almost 20 agencies moved in late Thursday night and forced the demonstrators out.

There were 12 people arrested, one of whom was an enrolled student, UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in a statement.

He said the standoff between officers and the protesters became violent when demonstrators blocked the hall’s entrance with plywood and shields while some used crowbars to hit officers and resist being arrested. No officers were injured because they were wearing helmets, he said. The Times wasn’t able to independently confirm if crowbars were used to hit officers.

It wasn’t immediately clear if any of those arrested were injured.

Local police and California Highway Patrol officers keep demonstrators away with barricades in Berkeley.

(Carlos Avila Gonzalez / San Francisco Chronicle)

All 12 were booked on suspicion of burglary, vandalism and conspiracy, Mogulof said. He said additional charges may be added as the University of California Police Department investigates and reviews video.

The protest action Wednesday coincided with the 76th anniversary of the Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” which refers to the estimated 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

Many students at UC Irvine similarly commemorated the day’s history with a building takeover.

A large group there surrounded and barricaded a physical sciences hall Wednesday, but police moved in much sooner and arrested 47 people after forcing the group off campus and taking down their encampment. Administrators at UCI have not reached an agreement with student protesters as officials have at Berkeley.

There, university officials almost immediately called the building takeover, as it was playing out, “an active crime scene.”

“It is not nonviolent civil disobedience,” Mogulof said, adding that protesters were “vandalizing an unsafe, boarded-up, fire-damaged building.”

University officials tried to draw a distinction between the protesters with whom administrators reached an agreement Tuesday and the group who took over the abandoned building Wednesday.

As part of the Berkeley agreement reached Tuesday, Chancellor Carol Christ said she would initiate a discussion about the university’s investments in weapons companies and the possible divestment from them as well as issue a letter calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. The move aligned the university with at least four others in the state and several across the country that have forged settlements with activists to end campus encampments that some Jewish students say have included antisemitic signage and chants.

But at least one Pro-Palestinian student group pushed back on the university’s distinction between protest groups this week.

In a “statement of solidarity” with the group occupying the abandoned hall, which they’d renamed “Hind’s House” in honor of Hind Rajab, a 6-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed during Israeli attacks in Gaza in January, the UC Berkeley Graduate Students for Justice in Palestine shared a statement during the protest saying they “reject and condemn the attempts to … fragment and divide our movement for Palestine.”

Law enforcement officials encounter protesters as officers move in to remove demonstrators inside UC Berkeley’s Anna Head Alumnae Hall.

(Carlos Avila Gonzalez / San Francisco Chronicle)

“We reject the ‘good protestor’ vs ‘bad protestor’ and ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ dichtomy,” the post said, calling on the university’s administration to avoid responding to the occupation with police.

Hours later, dozens of officers in helmets faced off with the protesters, according to photos and video from the scene.

The arrests at Berkeley weren’t the only police investigations in the Bay Area this week.

In Oakland, at the University of California’s president’s office, officials are investigating recent vandalism and property damage for which a Pro-Palestinian group appears to have taken credit.

On Sunday, Oakland police officers responded to the building just after midnight, where they found broken windows and paint on the walls, Oakland police spokesperson Paul Chambers said. He said it’s being investigated as a hate-related incident.

Ryan King, a spokesperson for the UC office of the president, confirmed that the building was tagged with graffiti and had other damage. He declined to comment on a motive behind the attack.

An anonymous Bay Area blog post on Tuesday took credit for the vandalism, saying it was done in “in solidarity with the Palestinian Resistance.”

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.