Correction: In the original version of this story, City on a Hill Press used the word “allegedly” in describing the interruption of the event. CHP apologizes: we did not mean to dispute that the interruption took place. The online version of the article reflects this change.
The Committee for Justice in Palestine (CJP) at UC Santa Cruz was wrapping up its week-long awareness week on May 24 when its final event, Cultural Solidarity Night, was interrupted by a student who opposed the event’s content, CJP signer and fourth-year film and digital media major Rebecca Pierce said.
Cultural Solidarity Night served as the closing event for CJP’s annual Palestinian Awareness Week, which ran from May 21 to May 24.
The week featured day events held in Quarry Plaza that invited passersby to participate in interactive displays in addition to the Wall of Flags memorial, which was assembled in honor of Palestinian and Israeli children killed in the conflict since 2000.
Evening events featured lectures including “Trauma and Resilience in the Gaza Strip” by UCSC psychology professor Tony Hoffman and “But is it ‘Apartheid’?” by Stanford professor Khalil Barhoum. A multimedia teach-in and prisoner’s art show was also held in the College Nine and Ten Multipurpose Room on May 22.
Pierce said that although the disruption of the cultural show during Palestinian Awareness Week was a shock, contrasting views of the Israel-Palestine conflict were anticipated.
“Hosting an event that’s so controversial, there’s always a possibility that people who disagree will make their case known,” Pierce said, “but this was the first time I’ve ever seen a cultural event be disrupted in this way.”
Pierce said the student disrupted guest poet Remi Kanazi during a performance of a poem addressing the Iraq War. The student accused Kanazi of spreading “lies” and “propaganda,” she said.
Pierce said the student denounced the event for failing to provide a “fair dialogue performance.”
“I tried to explain to [the student] the free speech policy at UCSC, but [the student] wouldn’t stop shouting, even when [Kanazi] tried to reason with her,” Pierce said. “We were able to get it under control, though.”
However, Pierce said, the behavior that disrupted Kanazi’s performance represents an issue on campus that must be addressed.
“Some events on campus are going to be met with a hostile response. Others are not,” Pierce said. “Being aware of the campus free speech policy is an important thing to know when looking at ways to share your message. Making sure your actions are effectively saying whatever it is that you want to say is really important. You have to be aware of your rights and the rights of others.”
Despite the disruption that interrupted the week’s final event, Pierce said she believed Palestinian Awareness Week still fulfilled CJP’s goals.
“Overall, the event was successful,” Pierce said. “The message we were trying to get across still came through and a lot of people came out to learn about the message we were trying to spread.”