A view from above of the tents at UC Santa Cruz's Gaza solidarity camp.

More than 150 people have been part of a Gaza solidarity camp with at least 40 tents at UC Santa Cruz’s Quarry Plaza. Demonstrators have asked University of California leaders to divest from weapons manufacturers and made other demands. (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Local) 

UC SANTA CRUZ >> Mirroring more than 100 other college campuses around the nation, some UC Santa Cruz students on May 1 started a pro-Palestine tent camp at Quarry Plaza and demanded that University of California leaders divest from weapons manufacturers profiting from the war in Gaza.

Demands posted at the UCSC camp ask UC Regents’ to remove investments related to weapons makers, BlackRock, Blackstone and “any corporations/campaigns that result in the displacement and continued oppression of marginalized groups.” Other demands to improve students’ quality of life included access to safe and affordable housing, safe transportation and healthy and affordable food.

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UC leaders oversaw $164 billion in investments in 2023, with a portfolio led by stocks and real estate. UC students have asked for weapons’ manufacturer divestment since at least 2021, according to UCLA’s student newspaper the Daily Bruin.

In April, the UC Office of the President rejected calls for divestment from firms that do business with Israel. This week, the UC President’s office declined to comment on weapons manufacturer divestment.

Wednesday, leaders of California State University, Sacramento created a new Policy on Socially Responsible Investments in response to a camp and demonstrations on its campus. Socially responsible investment policies exclude “direct investments in corporations and funds that profit from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and activities that violate fundamental human rights,” according to a statement from CSU Sacramento administrators.

Leaders of UC Investments and a UCSC spokesperson have not yet responded to Santa Cruz Local’s questions on whether it would divest from weapons manufacturers. “Over the past week, we engaged in talks to seek an amicable resolution including the voluntary disbanding of the encampment. We continue to seek that outcome,” wrote UCSC spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason, in a May 10 statement.

UC Investments provide “a stable and growing revenue stream that benefits current and retired employees and supports the university’s education, research and public service mission,” according to a statement from the UC President’s office. UC tuition and fees are not used for investments, but are the primary funding sources for the university’s core operations, according to the statement.

Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo, a photographer who grew up in Santa Cruz, recently photographed the UCSC camp and spoke to some of its participants.

UC Santa Cruz history professor Muriam Davis speaks to a crowd of protestors and community members in front of Quarry Plaza on May 5. Protesters call this area that hosts speakers and events daily the “people’s university.” Davis said she and other faculty are trying to keep students safe in light of violence at other college campuses. Demonstrators at UCSC have not clashed with counter protestors or police as of May 9. (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Local)  

A photo of Sasha Stetler, media liason for UC Santa Cruz students that urged divestment from weapons manufacturers.

“I’m here as a Jewish student,” said Sasha Stetler, a third-year undergraduate at UCSC. “Our religion and the very real issues of antisemitism cannot be weaponized as an excuse for genocide. As Jews we know more than a lot of people what genocide looks like, and we should be able to acknowledge this as what it is.” More than 34,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have been killed since October in the Israel-Hamas war, according to the United Nations. (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Local)  

A student protestors wearing a disposable rain poncho walks between tents on a rainy day in Quarry Plaza.

A demonstrator walks through rain in front of the Bay Tree Bookstore in Quarry Plaza on May 4. The graduate student commons above Ivéta Café remain open to demonstrators who use the space to meet and do schoolwork. At least 150 people have been part of the tent camp. (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Local)  

A student protester paints a sign at the Gaza solidarity camp in Quarry Plaza on May 3. Another protester said, “Every time the government has ever been mad at student protesters, the students have always been on the right side of history.” (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Local)  

Two demonstrators watch over the camp at Quarry Plaza. “We’re here because there is a genocide going on, and because of the way our government and world is structured, it doesn’t give us a lot of agency or power to stop these things outside of making our voices heard,” one student said. “So the best way to do that is by obstructing, being loud.” (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Local)  

Protestors link arms during a May 5 training exercise to prepare for potential police presence at the camp at Quarry Plaza. UC administrators asked protestors to create a walkway through the camp for fire evacuation purposes, and tents were reorganized to accommodate it. (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Local)

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Stephen Baxter is a co-founder and editor of Santa Cruz Local. He covers Santa Cruz County government.

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Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo is a freelance photographer and filmmaker from Santa Cruz. He holds a bachelor's degree in cinema from San Francisco State University, and his work has appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel and Watsonville Register-Pajaronian.