Supporters say campus protests are effective; experts differ

On the University of California - Berkeley campus Wednesday, voices of dissent continued crying out for change. Their slogan of choice: "Free Palestine!"

"I’ve participated in any number of progressive movements. I’ve been involved in this movement for 20 years," said demonstrator and Berkeley resident Joseph Anderson.

He said seeing the signs and spectacles across the country brings him back to his younger days when he and others successfully demonstrated in the 1980s.

"Of course, it has an impact," he said, standing in front of a white and red "Stop the Gaza Genocide" sign near Sproul Hall."I mean this exactly parallels the anti-Apartheid movement against South African Apartheid. And I’ve said this is the new anti-Apartheid movement."

Across the Bay and country, those committed to pro-Palestinian causes are capturing attention. Hundreds mixed in with a May Day rally in San Francisco around midday. 

Others have participated in the occupation of college campus buildings in New York and Los Angeles. Those actions have led to mass arrests Tuesday night and Wednesday.

"If you are to recruit the unlikely protesters into your demonstrations, that might be more effective," said Dr. Lisa Mueller, a political scientist at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.


Pro-Palestinian teach-in at Santa Clara University held by students

Students are demonstrating on the Santa Clara University campus, protesting the situation in Gaza. But with tensions heightened at universities across the country, organizers were determined to keep this event calm.

Mueller is an expert on social change tactics and said mass occupations and demonstrations geared toward moving the global needle in another direction are not as successful as they were in the past.

"Protests have, overall, become less effective at winning their demands over the last handful of years. That has coincided with the continued frequency of protests," she said.

Mueller believed using the same tactic repeatedly reduces the chance of recruiting sympathetic ears to the cause.

Other experts said this movement has difficulty winning broad-based support because it’s based on a thorny narrative.

"Oppressor-oppressed really doesn’t really apply here. But that’s the lens that this is being examined through," said Professor Ken Gray, a criminal justice lecturer at the University of New Haven.

For now, the tents, signs, and chats ringing out in Berkeley and at other campuses are finding a home in the heads and hearts of the most ardent believers.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on the X platform (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU2 and on Instagram, @jessegontv