Going into its fifth week on campus, the UC Santa Barbara Liberated Zone encampment, erected May 1 at the lawn between North Hall, or Malcolm X Hall, and the library, has become a place of community, solace and growth for participating students and community members alike.

The Liberated Zone has hosted a number of events this month open not only to those living within the encampment, but also outside visitors. Maddy Fangio / Daily Nexus

The Liberated Zone has hosted a number of events this month, open not only to those living within the encampment, but also outside visitors. The group regularly posts event schedules on its Instagram page advertising workshops, art sessions, training and free meals.

According to a Liberated Zone media liaison and fourth-year global studies major Ericka Bradley, the group is completely autonomous, meaning there is no singular leader or governing board.

“We don’t have one leader; we don’t have one person that does everything. All the roles we have, they are rotating,” Bradley said.

Fourth-year political science major and Liberated Zone media liaison Rebecca, who wished to only be identified by first name, described this method as a “horizontal leadership” structure.

“Everyone has an opportunity to say something [and] to speak on something. Everyone can vote on something, propose something themselves and lead it themselves,” Rebecca said.

The group is organized into different factions, including security, media, medic, outreach and demands committees. People interested in joining the encampment are given the option at orientation to participate in the committee of their choice. Once onboarded, members have the option to be involved in any other committee’s conversations, ensuring everyone’s voice is equally heard, according to Bradley.

The group has aimed to uphold these standards by incorporating open conversations about topics such as global liberation and open consciousness into their programming, and maintaining regular community check-in meetings.

According to Bradley, the encampment security committee is responsible for creating actionable plans to keep members safe and seeking advice from lawyers about potential threats to the encampment. The group also hosts regular trainings on cops tactics, de-escalation, Narcan and emergency medicine. Furthermore, encampment participants are offered risk-level choices to give them autonomy over their level of involvement with the movement.

“[The security committee] is kind of going to come together and advise the group what they think. They have contact with some lawyers and so we’ve already spoken to lawyer teams and gotten recommendations as to what exactly we should do in case things do escalate,” Bradley said.

The group is organized into different factions, including security, media, medic, outreach and demands committees. Maddy Fangio / Daily Nexus

Organizers of the encampment said they aim to make it a safe space for students to practice spirituality and their religion. The Muslim Students Association (MSA) consistently gathers for public prayer sessions at the encampment. Journaling sessions, mental health checks, facilitated breathwork and guided yoga and meditation classes are also frequently held.

The Liberated Zone uses art to build community, through art workshops, poetry readings and more. Participants are encouraged to bring instruments and perform songs together during music sessions; most recently the Liberated Zone held a performance of Arabic music on May 25.

Through their community art sessions, members of the Liberated Zone create posters and chalk designs around campus to advocate for Palestinian liberation and peacefully reinforce their demands to the University.

“Chalk is chalk. It is washable. It is not vandalism of any kind. We had some kids come here and chalk as well. And it’s disheartening to see power washers coming at 3 a.m. in the morning making a lot of noise, and it’s no fault to the maintenance workers,” Rebecca said.

As they strive to reach the negotiation table alongside University administration, UCSB Liberated Zone has placed a focus on “giving back to the community.” Maddy Fangio / Daily Nexus

Over Mother’s Day weekend, the encampment group organized a brunch, a discussion “to celebrate traditions of revolutionary mothering” and a vigil for mothers in Gaza. According to Rebecca, the weekend was an emotional time for those sacrificing time with their families for the encampment’s cause.

“We had some moms from Ohio stop by over the weekend for Mother’s Day. They brought their children and we created a vigil for the fallen mothers of Palestine. It was a really fun space to have moms here,” Rebecca said.“A lot of students and faculty and community members gave up their time away from their moms to be here at the encampment to speak up for Palestine and having a mom there who was feeling extremely emotional was a very vulnerable space for sure.”

Many homeless individuals in I.V., as well as those facing food insecurity, have found shelter and solace at the encampment, according to Rebecca. Thanks to regular donations from supporters and local businesses, the encampment offers free food daily as well as tents and sleeping bags to those who wish to stay overnight. Rebecca said the opportunity to help their peers is rewarding, and they are looking to the university to follow in their footsteps.

“It feels good to be doing things for UCSB and doing things for the larger area. Providing a meal for someone who might not necessarily have the ability to have one or giving a sleeping bag or a tent to someone who needs it — for a student who is out on the street in their car, who needs something to keep them going. It’s hard sometimes to know that we’re doing so much for the community and the university has the ability to do the same, and they’re not,” Rebecca said.

The Liberated Zone has aligned its movement not only with Palestinians but “all oppressed peoples,” including those in Sudan, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tigray, according to their Instagram.

Within the local community, the group has demonstrated solidarity with United Auto Workers 4811 and their efforts to strike, Indigenous student groups to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and Black community groups such as Healing Justice Santa Barbara.

Bradley added how underprivileged communities in I.V. are acknowledged in their demands to the University as a show of solidarity with locals, in conjunction with displaced peoples in Palestine.

As they strive to reach the negotiation table alongside University administration, UCSB Liberated Zone has focused on “giving back to the community,” creating bonds between its members and fostering a positive learning environment. As the year comes to a close, organizers from the encampment want to keep light shining on Palestinian liberation and their demands to the University.

“We’re all very community-based. Even though this is a political movement, it has been a safe space where we’ve established our own community guidelines. We don’t want any hate speech. We want to recenter this on Palestine,” Rebecca said.

A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the May 30, 2024 print edition of the Daily Nexus.


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.