The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Pro-Palestinian Protesters March Across Campus and Confront DVC President

Alyssa DuFresne

A group of around 100 Diablo Valley College students and faculty protesting Israel’s war in Gaza confronted DVC President Susan Lamb on May 7, accusing her and the school administration of failing to take action to address multiple incidents of Islamophobia on campus.

The protest comes as massive campus uprisings have overtaken universities across the United States in recent weeks, including UC Berkeley, UCLA and the University of Southern California on the West Coast, led by student activists demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and university divestments from companies doing business with Israel.

The conflict has taken center stage, seven months after the Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 Israelis by Hamas, who also took hundreds hostage, and Israel’s subsequent military bombardment of Gaza that has left around 35,000 Palestinians dead, sparking international outcry. 

The DVC protest, led and organized by student activist Muskaan Saif, lasted around two hours and remained peaceful throughout. 

Saif stated her reasons to call out the school administration, citing its inaction following an Islamophobic incident that occurred at DVC’s Club Day in late February, and an alleged Islamophobic encounter Saif said she had last year with a staff member at a student center.   

On May 6, President Lamb sent an email to all DVC faculty and students notifying them of the planned protest.

The email included the note: “Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war, many students have reported feeling unsafe due to antisemitic, anti-Muslim or anti-Palestinian sentiment. We reject and will not tolerate any form of harassment, intimidation or discrimination that undermines the dignity and well-being of these individuals in our community.”

One week before, on April 30, Saif visited President Lamb’s office and expressed her intentions to lead a campus protest.

In an interview with The Inquirer on May 2, Saif said that as a Muslim student, “I feel like I’m not supported at DVC, and I let [Lamb] know that.”

“She understands why I’m doing it,” Saif said of the school’s president. “She wants to show me that [Muslim students] are supported, but it doesn’t feel that way.”

Lamb said when Saif came to her to announce the protest, she made a few requests.

“I realized we have a lot of employees who are trying to go about their daily work and get that done, and so I just asked [Saif] that those [staff members] not be disrupted,” Lamb said.

“I don’t want them to be afraid or be in a situation where they have a large group of people coming into their office while they are trying to do their work.”

Voices of protest

Around 11:10 a.m. on Tuesday, Saif commenced the protest in the DVC Commons by reciting a poem, then introduced the first speaker, Sheikh Abubakr, the Imam of the Brentwood Muslim Community Center.

“We’re all gathered here today for something that has been crushing our souls and hurting our hearts for the last few months, witnessing something that humanity should never think that we would be witnessing,” Abubakr told the crowd.

“We cannot accept, as human beings, seeing such bold[ness] in the face of the entire world with our own tax dollars,” he said, referring to America’s longstanding military funding support for Israel. 

“People keep getting surprised. They say, ‘Look, you’re being anti-semitic.’ We are not anti-semitic. Muslims have been shown time and time again throughout history [as] allies and supporters of our Jewish neighbors.

“But you have to understand that what is going on is nothing new. The struggle of the Palestinian people and the people of Gaza, what did they descend from?”

Abubakr added that the ceasefire movement has gained support not only from Muslims and Arabs, but people of all faiths and backgrounds.

Contra Costa College counselor Camille Santana took the microphone next, and expressed her desire to represent faculty who support Palestine.

“We demand leadership across this country at every higher education institution, to put your money where your values are,” Santana said. “We as your constituents, your consumers, as students, alumni, faculty, we say no aid to countries that commit war crimes and genocide.”

Santana continued, “Students across America and the world are saying no to genocide, no more weapons to Israel. Listen to our students. Protect our students.”

She then focused her criticism on the Contra Costa Community College District, which Santana said has done too little to address the crisis. 

“Our college leadership in this district has barely tolerated us talking about Palestine. They have barely tolerated the advocacy of the Middle East, Arab and Muslim students in our district,” she said. 

“We are supposed to teach our students how to be critical thinkers, how to be leaders, how to stand up for justice and make the change that we want to see in our country and in the world,” she added. “And I see that happening here today.”

Albert Ponce, DVC political science professor and co-director of the Social Justice program, took the stage after Santana. “As my comrade Camille just laid out,” he announced, “the students—you all—have never been wrong.”

“We can go back to the 1980s when students were camped out to stop white supremacy in South Africa. And they were called criminals,” Ponce said. “Nelson Mandela was labeled a terrorist. But that fight by students here, locally, who took the position [and] put their careers on the line, [they] stood up for justice. On the other end of the spectrum, the police state has always been on the wrong side of justice.”

“When the ruling classes unleashed the forces of the police state upon us all, under vigilance, under surveillance and under actual beatings and arrest [because students were] standing up for justice, the world needs to be made over again,” Ponce continued.

“I stand in solidarity with the people in Palestine, and we stand with every movement against the powerful who seek to keep us unfocused, who tell us to focus on our book [or] to go to class. Well out here you’re learning more, you’re doing more than you would in any class on any college campus in the world.”

Encounter with the president

Saif later shared a personal story about her mother’s strong, fearful opposition to the protest.

“She cried to me, ‘Muskaan, the school is going to kick you out, the cops are going to arrest you,’” Saif recounted. “That’s her fear in America, who claims to be the country of the free. Who’s free? We are not free until we are all free.”

After two more student speeches and a series of call-and-response chants, Saif announced the start of the march around campus. Less than a dozen campus police officers trailed the protesters unobtrusively as they left the commons.

As the protestors marched up the hill by the library and turned toward the faculty offices, they called out, “‘Free, free Palestine!’ and ‘Ceasefire now!” among other chants.

Photo by Alyssa DuFresne

One student graffitied “Viva Palestina,” and “Susan, we are watching,” on the outer wall of the DVC Bookstore as the marchers passed. College staff washed off the graffiti following the protest.

Saif led the marchers to the administration building, where they stopped under the president’s office and confronted President Lamb, accusing her of personally prohibiting pro-Palestinian posters around campus.

“I was told specifically by the math lab that President Lamb said, ‘Do not post Palestinian stuff up in our campus,’” Saif said in front of the crowd.

Lamb quickly denied the accusation, stating, “I did not say that,” but was abruptly drowned out by the crowd’s chants before she could provide further explanation.

“Susan Lamb, Susan Lamb! Islamophobia should not stand!” shouted the drove of protestors. 

“I myself have had many Islamophobic events happen to me on campus, and I was told something is going to happen! Has anyone seen any change?” Saif shouted as Lamb stood close by.

“No!” shouted the crowd in unison.

“Enough is enough!” Saif yelled. “What are we here to do? We’re here to speak up, to make a difference.”

The school responds

In an interview Tuesday with The Inquirer shortly after her encounter with the protesters, Lamb said, “Similar to the email I sent out last night, I respect the students’ First Amendment rights and their right to protest. I think it shows our student voice, especially with them organizing this.”

Lamb also outlined the administration’s goals for addressing racism and Islamophobia on the campus.

“We are having meetings with the Racial Justice Collective and are trying to figure out some ways moving forward,” said Lamb. 

“I want to make sure that all students, regardless of whether they’re Muslim, Jewish or whatever, feel that they are valued, heard and seen at this college, and I think that’s an ongoing conversation as our world changes.”

Lamb added, “In order to support students, I think we need to listen to our student voices, [and] find ways to work collaboratively to make that happen.”

Alyssa DuFresne

In regards to Saif’s claims that Lamb had restricted the posting of pro-Palestinian materials, Lamb replied, “I can only think she’s referring to one that I saw her posting the other night. It was in an area where our custodial would have a really hard time getting to it, [so] I asked her to please not post it there.”

She explained, “It was on a painted area, and like I said it would add additional work to our custodians who are just trying to do their jobs.”

Lamb added, “The rest of the postings are allowed all across campus. There hasn’t been an issue that I am aware of.”

Accusations continue

After chanting outside the administration building, shouting protesters made their way to the Liberal Arts complex before arriving at the Academic Support Center (ASC), where Saif climbed on top of a table and directed accusations against the senior lab coordinator of the ASC, Peggy Wilson.

Referring to an alleged encounter that Saif said she had with Wilson in October, she said, “Islamophobic events have happened here. When I was in the ASC, when it’s supposed to be a student center, it’s supposed to be a safe space, when I was told, ‘Your god is not real’ [by Wilson], and she disrespected Palestine.”

Gasps arose from the crowd, which proceeded to shout, “Shame!”

“And our administration did nothing about it,” Saif claimed. “I sat there and went to meeting after meeting after meeting, this happened back in October. I got an email yesterday saying, ‘Let’s have a follow-up now.’”

Cam Lippincott

Saif then orchestrated a new chant that the crowd followed: “Peggy, Peggy, you can’t hide! What you did is not justified!”

The group then made their way to the cafeteria, where a student protester gave a short speech and led more chants as campus police watched from the second floor.

Saif finally led the group back to the commons, where she further denounced President Lamb.

“[Lamb] is more scared of a lawsuit than defending her students’ name!” Saif told the crowd.

A new chant arose from the crowd: “Shame Susan Lamb!” The protest concluded with a universal cry of “Shame!”

After the march, reflecting on the protesters’ grievances and accusations, Lamb spoke about the possibility of engaging with students in the future.

“I respect students’ ability to protest,” she said. “I sat down and had a conversation with [Saif] the other night when she happened to knock on my door.”

Lamb added, “I was also down in the commons earlier during the protests. I offered to sit down and have a conversation there about anything. I am open to a conversation.”

View Comments (13)
About the Contributors
Alyssa DuFresne, Editor in chief
Cam Lippincott, Managing Editor

Comments (13)

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  • M

    Muskaan SaifMay 10, 2024 at 2:23 pm

    Hi everyone it’s Muskaan again. I just want to say that I had a discussion with Peggy on Wednesday and Thursday and she is truly sorry for offending me and everyone else. When the incident first happen I wanted to have a conversation with her and I let administration know that and the conversation never happened, but I recently learned that Peggy also wanted to have a conversation, but administration never gave us the opportunity so I went and talk to her myself, and I explained to her why what she did was so bad and why it did offend us and why it hurt people and it genuinely came from a ignorance rather than purposeful disrespect and remember that Islam teaches forgiveness so I forgive her and I hope you all do too, but let’s not hate on her anymore but still be upset that administration not letting Peggy and I have this conversation that should’ve happened seven months ago that clearly benefited both her and I because now she knows what she did and now I know her intention. What she did was still wrong I’m not saying it’s not but again Islam teachers forgiveness and she was willing to have a conversation with me about it and see it and understand it.

  • M

    MariaMay 9, 2024 at 6:58 pm

    I have great respect for President Lamb’s patience and tact. I can’t imagine how much patience she needs to keep the situation under control. I am proud to attend college under her guidance!

  • A

    Anonymous Palestinian AllyMay 9, 2024 at 7:08 am

    Interesting that hamas massacred 1200 Israelis but the bombardment of Gaza left Palestinians dead. Israel murdered over 35000 Palestinians with a clear intent to. Not only did they bomb houses, churches, mosques, universities, but they bombed Rafah multiple times, which is supposed to be the safe area that Israel made. They also shot, raped, tortured, starved, and committed unspeakable crimes to Palestinians that they took to prison. The bias is so clear that it’s laughable at this point. Fix your writing and fix whatever is stopping you from speaking the truth.

    • S

      SRMay 9, 2024 at 10:37 am

      Well spoken, the full truth about what is really happening in Palestine needs to be told to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen! There needs not to be any falsehoods or fabrications regarding the horrors that Israeli forces are committing against Palestinian civilians.

    • A

      AnonymousMay 9, 2024 at 12:28 pm

      If Israel’s retaliatory response to the hamas attack had only killed 1200 Palestinians would that have been considered a justified response?

    • P

      p1an0_guyMay 9, 2024 at 3:13 pm

      While it may be true that over thirty thousand Palestinians may have lost their lives in the conflict that they started, one must also note that Hamas operates among the hospitals and the schools. They build their tunnels underneath these buildings, and they block off the exit routes, forcing the inhabitants to remain, precisely so that they can say that Israel is killing civilians. Using human shields will inevitably result in human deaths, right? Israel’s “clear intent” is to aid the world in wiping a terrorist organization off the map. What is Hamas’ intent? I would recommend that you consider this from the other side as well. I respect your opinion and understand your conclusion, but I believe that it may not be the best conclusion based on all the information available. Have a nice day!

      • A

        Anonymous Palestinian AllyMay 12, 2024 at 9:20 pm

        Hello Piano Guy,
        Thank you for your response and I appreciate the respect in your words. However, I would like for you to present me proof of Hamas hiding in hospitals, schools, and mosques (a statement by the IOF or any Israeli official/media is not proof) or Hamas using human shields. For I can produce proof of Israel infiltrating hospitals and killing unarmed, injured people (a war crime), the IOF using human shields, multiple Israeli officials saying they want ALL Palestinians out of Palestine (what they’ve been trying to do since 1948) and literal Palestinian concentration camps. I will give you this proof at your request if you respond and I check this thread again lol. Also, you say “30,000 may have died but that’s the cost of war when they’re using human shields,” so by that logic should mass shooters be bombed when they are holding hostages? Should any hostage situation be dealt with killing everyone to get rid of the evil? I hope your answer would be no, because otherwise it would be outrageous. Thank you for your time and understanding

    • M

      MariaMay 9, 2024 at 7:02 pm

      This war would have finished in 1 second if Hamas had returned hostages. It’s not Israel who has started this, and it’s not Israel who continues this.

  • M

    Muskaan SaifMay 8, 2024 at 5:01 pm

    My name is Muskaan Saif I am who this is about and who did this protest. I would like to say the conversation “ Lamb replied, “| can only think she’s referring to one that I saw her posting the other night.
    It was in an area where our custodial would have a really hard time getting to it, [so] l asked her to please not post it there.”” never happened EVER “ She explained, “It was on a painted area, and like I said it would add additional work to our custodians who are just trying to do their jobs.”
    Lamb added, “The rest of the postings are allowed all across campus. There hasn’t been an issue that I am aware of.”” none of this happened

    • K

      Kait GrassoMay 9, 2024 at 10:30 am

      So, does this mean that Susan Lamb lied to the Inquirer about having discussed the posters with you? That’s very disrespectful of her, to say the least.

      • S

        sMay 9, 2024 at 12:47 pm

        if you were there you wouldn’t be surprised. she was smiling and waving at being called out when she followed everyone back to the starting point.

      • M

        Muskaan SaifMay 10, 2024 at 2:16 pm

        Yes she lied

    • A

      AnonymousMay 9, 2024 at 5:18 pm

      Or did Susan have this interaction with someone else and this is a “they all look alike” situation.