UC Santa Barbara Students Supporting Israel set up a demonstration on Dec. 4 on the Lot 22 Lawn to acknowledge Israeli hostages taken by militant group Hamas on Oct. 7. Following pro-Palestine messages written over the sign placed on-site, university administration hired private security upon student request to keep 24/7 watch over the demonstration.
The demonstration features a long dining table and posters of the Israeli hostages and those who’ve died, taped on 72 empty seats, alongside a standing banner saying “Never again is now.” The memorial will remain displayed until Friday.
Students Supporting Israel President and fourth-year biology major Eyal Wrobel did not verify which university department is funding the private security, nor the costs of stationing the guards.
Hamas took roughly 240 Israeli hostages following the Oct. 7 attack, which killed 1,200 Israeli people. Israel subsequently held the Gaza Strip under siege, resulting in the cumulative deaths of over 15,800 Palestinians since then. A recent hostage deal saw the return of 50 Israeli hostages taken by Hamas in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel, Associated Press News reported.
The table represents a Shabbat dinner, a traditional Jewish dinner eaten on Friday night, for the Jewish Israeli hostages who were unable to have one, Wrobel said in an interview with the Nexus.
“People just walking or biking by the tunnel, even if they don’t stop and take a minute, they’ll look and see the victims of these hostages. I think it’s just an impactful way of showing people this aspect,” he said.
On Tuesday, the plywood sign was vandalized with various phrases including “Free Palestine” and on Wednesday, the writing was covered over. Belt stanchions were erected around the table and sign that same day, and Community Service Officers (CSOs) were stationed around the area.
The CSOs were later changed to 24/7 private security. Sources confirmed to the Nexus that the security was hired by university administration.
“Three weeks ago, we attempted to set up a similar exhibit in front of Storke Tower, which was vandalized not even 24 hours after being set up,” Wrobel said.
“Despite CSOs’ presence, some people managed to cover our ‘Never again is now’ board with antisemitic and hateful rhetorics. As a result, we have increased security around the tables to prevent it from happening again,” he said. “Our community has been very respectful regarding displays and events that other organizations have had, and it is extremely sad and unfortunate to see that this is not being reciprocated.”
The Nexus will continue to report on this topic as more information is confirmed.