HomeAAPI Heritage MonthPro-Palestinian AAPI protestors at UC Berkeley stress solidarity

Pro-Palestinian AAPI protestors at UC Berkeley stress solidarity

By Matthew Yoshimoto, AsAmNews Intern

Moments like traditional Palestinian dancing at UC Berkeley’s Free Palestine encampment invoke feelings of joy and unity amidst resistance — which Berkeley Law student Matthew Fernandes said is key in the collective fight for Palestine.

Fernandes, who is an organizer with Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine, said the encampment — which has occupied the steps of Sproul Hall since April 22 — has shown resilience in the face of “tense” moments with counter protestors by maintaining a peaceful atmosphere and avoiding escalation. 

“It’s been amazing to be able to use the privilege we have as students at a prestigious American institution to show solidarity with the folks under siege in Gaza. It’s been really great to have such an amazing community of people around me … who have come out to support the various ways of donating or attending rallies and otherwise showing support for the cause,” Fernandes told AsAmNews

Fernandes said he became involved in 2017 when he learned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a friend who is Palestinian. Fernandes said he ”opened his eyes” to the issue and helped him recognize that Palestine serves as “the frontlines today for the fight against colonialism.” 

Noting the vast history of colonialism throughout Asia, Fernandes stressed the importance for cross-racial solidarity for Palestine, especially among Asian Americans. He also compared Israel’s violence against Palestinians to the Anglo-American genocide of Native Americans. 

“Cross-racial solidarity is the most powerful thing and the scariest thing to those in power when people reach across racial boundaries and come together. So it’s always important that we support each other and look out for each other, fight for each other when the chips are down … It’s time for us if we have the capacity to stop them,” said Fernandes to AsAmNews

Berkeley Law student Xandra Xiao, who is a part of Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine and continues to serve as a legal observer at the encampment, said it has been “heartening to see how organized people are and how much people are really there to kind of protect one another.”

Xiao noted that many Asian American groups, including Muslim, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, are especially impacted and face increased racism and Islamophobia. 

Xiao said community members can join daily programming to learn about the history of the conflict and educate themselves through exploring UC Berkeley Divest’s Instagram

Noting that she believes universities around the country such as UCLA are failing to protect student protestors from police violence, Xiao told AsAmNews: “It’s on us to protect one another. And I think the way to do that is to [help the campaign] be bigger and bigger.” 

NAMI, a UC Berkeley PhD student in performance studies, said their group was one of many who signed the UC Berkeley Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Coalition Statement. NAMI explained that with the start of AAPI Heritage month, it is more pressing for Asian Americans to understand the implications of settler colonialism in the present day. 

NAMI said that while the campus Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) and Graduate Assembly have adopted policies that align with the BDS coalition, activists will continue to “hold this university accountable to the ways they are complicit in and make a profit off of its settler colonial exploits in the Bay Area as well as the settler colonial occupation in Palestine.”

“To understand the state of being an Asian American or of the Asian Diaspora is to also be intimately aware with the ways these labels came to be. It is to recognize that our lives are entrenched with the histories of our motherlands’ own oppression and extraction … And to the students who might be reading this that are on the fence of participating: Taking risk management into account, what is stopping you? History is watching; what’s your move?,” NAMI told AsAmNews.

UC Berkeley alum Krista Cha said she was “horrified by the repression” that students and faculty across college campuses have faced for standing against the genocide of Palestinians. She has worked with a group of other UC alumni to demand that the UC divest from weapons and other companies profiting from Israel’s violence against Palestinians.  

Noting that Palestine is a valuable location for trading purposes since it is strategically located between Asia and Europe, Cha said it is important for people to recognize that U.S. support for Israel is an “extension of its imperialist ambitions in our motherlands in the Asia Pacific.” 

“While there are a lot of AAPI students involved, I certainly believe there should be more! AAPI students can start by being curious about the history of Palestine and how it relates to our own histories. Secondly, AAPI students should seek to diversify their news sources … Lastly, I’d encourage AAPI students to get involved with student organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine so they can be part of a community of other students fighting for a free Palestine together.”

Fernandes added people can support the campaign by donating to the mutual fund and signing a letter to the UC regents, demanding that they divest from weapon-manufacturing companies like Lockheed Martin and weapons company shareholders like BlackRock.

“Just keep talking about the protests. But more importantly, always remember why we’re protesting. It’s not just students camping out — it’s students camping out in solidarity with Palestinians under siege in Gaza in order to pressure their universities to divest from these companies and weapons manufacturers that are creating these weapons of war that are being used against civilians in Gaza.”

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features


Discover more from AsAmNews

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading