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Pro-Palestinian activists at Cal State LA march against invasion of Rafah

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As Israel began its invasion into Rafah in Gaza, pro-Palestinian activists at California State University, Los Angeles held a rally and march in opposition to the military operation.

Roughly 200 protesters gathered outside their encampment in front of the gymnasium as the sun began to set on the campus.

  • Students for Justice in Palestine, right, try to keep out...

    Students for Justice in Palestine, right, try to keep out another group of protesters at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • A woman walks past graffiti as students for Justice in...

    A woman walks past graffiti as students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally in front of the...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally in front of the Student Services Building at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally in front of the...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally in front of the Student Services Building at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally in front of the...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally in front of the Student Services Building at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • The Students for Justice in Palestine encampment at Cal State...

    The Students for Justice in Palestine encampment at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Cal State Los Angeles student Jacob Escareno, right, is chased...

    Cal State Los Angeles student Jacob Escareno, right, is chased out of the protests by Students for Justice in Palestine at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally in front of the...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally in front of the Student Services Building at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Cal State Los Angeles student Jacob Escareno, right, is chased...

    Cal State Los Angeles student Jacob Escareno, right, is chased out of the protests by Students for Justice in Palestine at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • A woman walks by an encampment as students for Justice...

    A woman walks by an encampment as students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine march at Cal State Los...

    Students for Justice in Palestine march at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • A man on the left is confronted by students during...

    A man on the left is confronted by students during a Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los...

    Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Cal State Los Angeles in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

“There is only one solution: student revolution,” demonstrators chanted, and reminded people not to engage any counter protesters as they readied to take to the streets.

“The idea (for todays rally) is for us to be in community with one another,” a Students for Justice in Palestine media liaison, who asked not to be named due to safety concerns, said earlier Tuesday.

While not quite festive Tuesday, the atmosphere was hopeful on campus, where the encampment outside the Eagle’s Nest gym has remained mostly undisturbed for the second straight week.

On May 1, Cal State LA students built a “Gaza solidarity encampment” similar to those that have cropped up on dozens of university campuses across America.

CSULA President Berenecea J. Eanes and other school officials shared a May 5 message “regarding campus safety and resources,” emphasizing the school “supports free speech” but will not tolerate graffiti, erection of structures, targeting of specific groups or any unlawful acts.

Organizers with Students for Justice in Palestine at CSULA are demanding the university disclose its investments and divest from companies part of the military industrial complex and with ties to Israel. It’s unclear if administrators had responded to the demands.

Additionally, protesters want the university to call for a permanent ceasefire, condemn what they call the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinian people and to boycott organizations that continue to support the war.

“I’m glad they’re still here, we weren’t sure what was going to happen when we came back over the weekend,” said Cyntnia Godinez, a student not involved in the protests.

Like Godinez, many students said they supported the demonstrators, and worried that their campus could be home to the type of tense police confrontations seen at other universities.

“It’s not what I want to focus on right now (near final exams) but I’m just happy that there’s people out there willing to take the risk with everything going on at other schools.”

The May 5 message from Eanes warned of decisive action to respond to any criminal activity.

In the emailed message to students, which came just days after university officials said that any vandalism or destruction of property would not be tolerated, Eanes said that over the weekend “several buildings and state property were defaced with graffiti,” including anti-Semitic rhetoric.

“We are increasing security and investigating the individual or individuals responsible for the graffiti,” Eanes’ statement said. “And in the interest of public safety, we are increasing security measures to act swiftly and decisively if further unlawful activity occurs.”

A small group of four people temporarily interrupted Tuesday’s rally.

While there was some yelling between encampment members and those trying to interrupt it, the rally remained peaceful through early evening.

One of the people who attempted to stop the rally was CSULA student Jacob Escareno, who said he didn’t have a problem with the encampment’s message, just some of protesters’ actions.

Escareno is a criminal justice major and said he worried for university workers who might be afraid to leave work while the rally is going on.

“When I come to school, I get distracted with all of this stuff that’s going on,” he said. “I understand these people have freedom of speech, but when I come to my school and I see that it’s vandalized, and I can’t even concentrate in my classes when I got finals week, I get angry.”

Protesters through the week have graffitied public properly with messages such as “free Gaza, free Palestine” and other messages, mostly on the wall of the physical education building where the encampment is.

Staff writer Emily Holshouser contributed to this story.

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