A demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag during a protest at UC Berkeley on May 7, 2024. (Aaron Levy-Wolins/J. Staff)
A demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag during a protest at UC Berkeley on May 7, 2024. (Aaron Levy-Wolins/J. Staff)

Pro-Palestinian activists claim credit for second arson at UC Berkeley

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Pro-Palestinian activists took credit for a felony arson attack outside of UC Berkeley’s Koshland Hall on Thursday.

Details about the fire were scarce on Friday. But it is at least the second case of arson at Cal that pro-Palestinian activists have claimed responsibility for this month. A UC Berkeley police vehicle was set on fire on June 1.

On Thursday morning, an anonymous “student intifada” post took credit for the latest incident.

“UCLA students were attacked last night so we retaliated with a firebomb on UCB campus,” the post said. “We unloaded a firebomb on the side of a campus building. The flame was big and spread across the trees and bushes on the side of a building. … Blessed is the flame.”

The post, which referenced a round of arrests at UCLA this week, appeared on Indybay.org, a longstanding “democratic collective of Bay Area independent media makers” that “operates on the principle of open publishing.”

UC police sent out an alert to the campus on Thursday afternoon saying they had received a report about the arson at 12:01 p.m. On Friday afternoon, UCPD updated its daily log to note that the felony arson occurred just after 4 a.m. Thursday.

University spokesman Dan Mogulof described the incident as a “small arson fire” in an email sent Friday to J. “We are aware of the social media post, and the incident is now under investigation,” Mogulof wrote, referring J. to the state fire marshal for more information. 

The state fire marshal and UCPD did not immediately respond to requests for more information. The extent of the damage from the arson is unclear.

Pro-Palestinian activists on the UCLA and California State University Los Angeles campuses escalated their protests this week. On Wednesday, police arrested more than two dozen protesters during confrontations at UCLA, CNN reported. At the CSU campus, protesters barricaded themselves inside a building with administrators still inside, including the university president, CNN reported. The protesters left overnight but caused “significant” damage to the building, according to the university. 

On June 1, a UC Berkeley police vehicle was partially burned, and an anonymous blog post on far-left website Abolition Media claimed the act “came from a place of love for Palestine.” The post stated that an “incendiary device was placed below” the vehicle, which was parked in front of the UC Berkeley police station. The device was “lit underneath the back left wheel” and had “enough fuel in it to torch the entire car.”

The Oct. 7 Hamas massacre in Israel and the subsequent war have led to escalating pro-Palestinian protests at university campuses across the country, including tent encampments that began to spring up in mid-April. UC Berkeley’s campus faced rounds of protests during the school year, including mob violence at a February event for an Israeli speaker at Zellerbach Playhouse and two pro-Israel demonstrators being punched in the face near Cal’s tent encampment.

UC Berkeley’s school year wrapped up with its May 11 graduation, and the weekslong tent encampment on campus closed down days later after Chancellor Carol Christ reached an agreement with the UCB Divest Coalition. A group of UC Berkeley professors, donors, alumni and students are asking UC to rescind the agreement.

The Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area condemned Thursday’s arson.

“The so-called ‘student intifada’ is far from peaceful; these actions are criminal and unacceptable,” JCRC said Friday in a social media post. “It is imperative that our leaders take immediate and decisive action to hold accountable those who commit these acts.”

Natalie Weinstein
Natalie Weinstein

Natalie Weinstein is J.'s senior editor. She previously worked as a senior editor at CNET News and, in the 1990s, as a reporter and editor at J., which was then called the Jewish Bulletin.