UC Santa Barbara academic workers and researchers led a campus walkout in solidarity with Palestinian liberation on May 1. The march was held concurrently with International Workers’ Day.

Students, faculty and community members gathered near the Engineering II Concourse for the Workers for Palestine rally. Michelle Cisneros / Daily Nexus

Approximately 880 participants attended the event, about two-thirds of whom were undergraduate and graduate students according to Charmaine Chua, an assistant professor in the global studies department and member of Academics for Justice in Palestine (AJP). The Nexus was unable to verify how many participants were professors or local residents.

The procession began at approximately 1:15 p.m. in front of the library. The walkout halted at the encampments near the Engineering II Concourse around 1:30 p.m., where the group organizing the encampment met them. 

According to an Instagram statement reposted by supporting organizations UCSB Divest and UCSB Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the organizers expressed their refusal “to be complicit in Israel’s brutality,” and they “cannot in good faith engage in academic research while every university in Gaza has been bombed into the ground.”

Student Safety Partners (SSPs) trailed the procession from behind. 

Several professors canceled midterms and moved class times to accommodate the rally, according to email notices obtained by the Nexus.  

Speakers from UCSB Divest and SJP denounced the university’s investments in Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, among other companies that are known profiteers of the war industry. 

The names of individuals in attendance have been kept anonymous by request, for safety reasons.

In relation to May Day, speakers emphasized the connection between Palestinian liberation and campus workers. 

“UCSB invests in weapons manufacturers while its workers are underpaid and unprotected [and] who struggle for housing and basic necessities,” one speaker said. 

According to an SJP speaker, “justice for the working class is part of Palestinian liberation.” They further noted that students have the power to shut down business as usual “in defense of Palestine.” 

An anonymous engineering graduate student further denounced the university’s ties with the United States Department of Defense (DoD), stating they are responsible for 35% of all funding to the UCSB engineering department. 

“I think for those reasons like being at that point of knowledge production, it makes us [graduate researchers] very essential in this struggle,” they said. 

The organizer’s official statement further noted that the DoD funding for military research on UC campuses hit $295 million in 2022.

According to Chua, the walkout was organized to advocate against the UC military-industrial complex and stated why they decided to organize the walkout. 

According to Chua, the UC system is invested in the knowledge production behind the U.S. war machine. As faculty, AJP could not “in good conscience” allow it to continue. The walkout was in solidarity with Palestinian university workers to demand that university labor stop being used to maintain the UC military-industrial complex. 

Laura Snell, recording secretary of the Academic Service Employees section for United Auto Workers (UAW) unit 4811  —  the UC academic worker student labor union — announced toward the end of the rally that the executive board of unit 4811 agreed to call a strike authorization vote following the violence pro-Palestinian protestors faced at an encampment at UC Los Angeles late in the evening on April 30; many of whom were UC graduate students workers.

According to Snell, this vote could occur “as early as next week,” where the workers will discuss whether they are willing to go on strike.

Chancellor Henry T. Yang stated the rally was “unpermitted” following its orchestration in an email sent out on May 2 to the UCSB community addressing the walkout and the recently established encampment. Yang stated that the rally caused “some disturbance due mostly to noise.” 

The May Day Walkout concluded around 3 p.m. with a “free Palestine” chant and dancing. 

“An injury to one is an injury to all, so I hope we can all move forward together in the spirit of love and liberation,” a speaker said.

A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the May 9, 2024 print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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