Students from the UC Santa Barbara Liberated Zone encampment physically blocked the Paseo West entrance to the library in a die-in for Palestine on May 13. Around 25 students participating in the die-in held pro-Palestinian signs, wrote chalk messages and took an oath of silence over a period of two hours. Some students were involved in verbal altercations with campus administration while others were shoved and stepped on by individuals leaving or entering the library.

Maddy Fangio / Daily Nexus

Students gathered outside of the main doors of the library at 12 p.m. and remained silent for the duration of the die-in. The protest event was scheduled to occur from 12-1 p.m. but lasted roughly two hours until 2 p.m. While the front door of the library was blocked, organizers left three entrances open, according to a May 14 press release on the Liberated Zone Instagram page.

Encampment media liaison and fourth-year political science major Rebecca — who wished to be identified by only her first name — explained that the die-in was held to honor victims in Palestine. 

“We did it in honor of the Palestinians who had fallen; it was completely silent for two hours. We had poster boards with people’s faces on [them] and portraits or murals to represent the fallen martyrs in Palestine, and we were met with some pushback for sure,” she said. 

Organizers also wanted to highlight their list of demands to the University. The encampment demands, released on May 3 on the Liberated Zone Instagram page, include the University publicly disclosing military investments, abolishing the UCSB Police Department and academically boycotting Israel. 

“We just needed to call attention to the fact that negotiations with the administration have not gone through at all,” she said.

Rebecca claimed a number of students and members of administration, including Assistant Vice Chancellor & Dean of Student Life Katya Armistead, took issue with the disruption and urged the group to end the die-in. Armistead and another unknown individual, assumed by the group to be an administrator, “expressed exasperation with the event and attempted to shut it down,” according to the Liberated Zone press release.

“Within the first three minutes of sitting down, Katya, the Dean of Student Life, came and very aggressively told us to disperse and that we had to move forward a bit,” Rebecca said.

The Nexus reached out to Armistead about the incident at the die-in, to which she replied, “no comment.”

Members of the die-in faced physical and verbal pushback from individuals observing them and those trying to get into the library. UCSB Liberated Zone posted a video on their Instagram story of second-year computer science major and Associated Students Senator Ephraim Shalunov stepping over a member of the die-in while attempting to exit the library. This incident was also mentioned in their Instagram press release. 

“Throughout the die-in, a couple of students had walked straight through people, kicking them in the face, stepping on them, pushing their faces in,” Rebecca said. “We were met with some pretty weird rhetoric from a couple of students, as well as some administrators.”

According to Rebecca, the other unidentified, alleged administrator present at the die-in approached them and stated their disapproval of the organizers’ actions. Rebecca also said they allegedly made an ableist comment about the presence of a “handicapped” student participating in the die-in delegitimizing the encampment, an action condemned by the Liberated Zone in their press release. 

“An administrator came up to us kind of judging us in a way of being like this is ridiculous. Even going as far as saying there’s a handicapped person here, which to me is very disheartening to hear [from] someone from the administration who’s representing like 30,000 undergraduates, and graduate students and faculty,” Rebecca said.

The Nexus was unable to identify the alleged administrators and professors observing the die-in.

Rebecca affirmed that the encampment is inclusive and that no hate rhetoric is allowed in their spaces. She expressed disappointment in administration for their lack of understanding on the matter.

“Our demands are trying to represent and be inclusive of so many intersectional voices and those who have been colonized and taken from their Indigenous land, even sitting on Chumash land here, and it was disappointing as a student to hear them say that,” she said. 

First-year art major Gabby — who wished only to be identified by her first name — was outside of the library encouraging students to write messages on the ground with chalk for an unrelated class art project at the same time as the die-in. Seeing her chalking supplies, Gabby claimed around five unidentified professors present at the die-in encouraged a group of around 10-15 students to “antagonize” the protestors and write “inappropriate” messages on the ground with her materials.

“They had stood there, and were antagonizing the protesters, almost yelling something at them, yelling at people even though they weren’t doing anything. They were just antagonizing them, trying to rile them up on purpose to get them to react,” Gabby said.

When she noticed people writing messages such as “Fuck Hamas” and “Fuck Gaza” with her chalk, Gabby said she attempted to erase them, only to face threats from the professors allegedly egging students on.

“At one point a professor had yelled at me for erasing something that was really inappropriate that was written by her student. And then another professor had threatened me and said that they were going to call the police on me and get people to come erase my piece,” Gabby said.

“For me, it was just interesting to see how certain people feel such a sense of entitlement to blow a peaceful protest and a peaceful voice out of proportion, and to make it something hateful,” she continued.

A version of this article appears on p. 1 of the May 16, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Anushka Ghosh Dastidar
Anushka Ghosh Dastidar (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. Previously, Ghosh Dastidar was the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2023-24 school year and the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at anushkagd@dailynexus.com or news@dailynexus.com.