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Arrests Made as Police Break up Pro-Palestinian Protest at UC Irvine

Arrests Made as Police Break up Pro-Palestinian Protest at UC Irvine

Police move to break up a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of California–Irvine in Irvine, Calif., on May 15, 2024. (Rudy Blalock/The Epoch Times)

City News Service

City News Service

5/15/2024

Updated: 5/15/2024

Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested at UC Irvine and officials issued a warning to avoid campus as law enforcement moved to break up a demonstration at the physical sciences building on May 15.
Protesters demanding the university divest from Israel over the Hamas war had blocked the entrance to the physical sciences building in an apparent occupation of the facility. All classes were canceled for the rest of Wednesday and staffers were told to work remotely Thursday.
The protesters surrounded the lecture hall about 2:30 p.m., prompting campus police to request aid from Orange County sheriff’s deputies and Irvine police, among other neighboring agencies, said Tom Vasich, a university spokesman.
The detained demonstrators would not say whether they were students, CBS News reported.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer issued a statement on X saying peaceful assembly is acceptable, but violence will not be tolerated.
“Any evidence of criminal activity, including failure to obey lawful orders to disperse, will be investigated and thoroughly reviewed,” said Mr. Spitzer. “Police have declared the gathering at the campus an unlawful assembly and ordered protesters to disperse.”
Police move to break up a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of California–Irvine on May 15, 2024. (Rudy Blalock/The Epoch Times)

Police move to break up a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of California–Irvine on May 15, 2024. (Rudy Blalock/The Epoch Times)

The protest, which includes an encampment much like those on campuses across the country, had been largely peaceful as the students negotiated with university officials.
The situation intensified over the past week, particularly after some protesting students received suspension notices from the university, including some who were involved in negotiations with UCI administrators.
In a statement posted on social media Wednesday, the UCI Divest protest group said it is “reclaiming the university for Palestine and for the people.”
“Exactly one week ago to the day, UC Irvine issued temporary suspensions to many students in the encampment, including the majority of the student negotiation team,'‘ according to the group. ”Students barred from returning to their own campus residence halls, cannot come to campus at the peak of midterms and finals, and are already facing the emotional toll of seeing the university militarize itself before it even accepts ending the genocide and killings of the students’ family members and friends.’’
Numerous tents were erected around the physical sciences building, and banners were hung from the building’s balcony listing the groups demands for divestment. Some small skirmishes were visible on the outskirts of the encampment perimeter as at least one counter-protester tried to confront participants.
A large number of law enforcement descended on the campus, and officers and deputies in riot gear stood by in formation outside the encampment.
UCI Divest added in its statement that university officials have called for a resumption of negotiations, “but how can we negotiate if our negotiators are barred from physical and virtual presence at UCI?'’
In a statement issued Monday, UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said the university “cannot selectively waive our rules against encampments or other relevant policies for this situation and not other situations.'’
“Moreover, far from engaging in the mere expression of anti-war sentiments, encampment protesters have focused most of their demands on actions that would require the university to violate the academic freedom rights of faculty, the free speech rights of faculty and fellow students, and the civil rights of many of our Jewish students,'' Mr. Gillman wrote.
“While there is a fine tradition of anti-war protests, it is important that one not confuse that legacy with efforts to intimidate and silence students with whom they disagree and or to diminish the rights of our Jewish students at their university.'’
Marc Olson contributed to this report.
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