Police converge on pro-Palestinian protest at UC Irvine

Police converged on UC Irvine on Wednesday as a pro-Palestinian protest escalated. Protesters took over the Physical Sciences Classroom Building, a two-story building near their encampment.

The escalation of the protest began about 2:30 p.m., according to a university spokesperson. School officials have sent out two alerts telling students to shelter in place.

“Avoid the area,” read a campus alert. “If you are in the area shelter in place for your safety until further notice.”

No classes were being held in the Physical Sciences building today, said Tom Vasich, UCI spokesperson. But classes were building held in other nearby buildings.

At least two other buildings near the encampment have been locked down, and UC Irvine police have requested support from other law enforcement agencies, Vasich said.

The moves by UCI police came after authorities removed camps at UCLA, Cal Poly Humboldt and USC. Protesters at UC Riverside and UC Berkeley had agreed to end their camps in exchange for concessions from the university.

Student representatives met with UC Irvine leadership two weeks ago to discuss whether the university would agree to their demands for divestment from companies with ties to Israel and weapon manufacturers in exchange for an end to the campus encampment. But talks were not fruitful, according to student organizers.

Protesters have asked for an end to “violent extremism” funding, amnesty for student protesters, a commitment to an academic boycott of Israel and removal of what the group calls “Zionist programming.”

On Tuesday, pro-Palestinian protesters at UC Berkeley removed tents on a central campus plaza in an agreement that appeared to end one of the largest and longest student encampments in the country as Chancellor Carol Christ said she would initiate a discussion about the university’s investments in weapons companies and the possible divestment from them.

On Wednesday, however, there were new developments at UC Berkeley as protesters occupied Anna Head Alumnae Hall, a condemned building on campus.

“This is an active crime scene, it is not nonviolent civil disobedience,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

He said that Wednesday marked the 55th anniversary of People’s Park, and that protesters were “vandalizing an unsafe, boarded-up, fire-damaged building next to People’s Park.”

UC Berkeley officials were working to confirm that the activists who took over the building were unrelated to the “nonviolent coalition with whom the campus reached an understanding yesterday,” Mogulof said.

The Berkeley agreement joined ones at at least four other California universities and several across the country that forged settlements with activists to end campus encampments that some Jewish students say have included antisemitic signage and chants.

Although no schools have agreed specifically to divest from ties to Israel — a demand of protesters — each has indicated that it will explore proposals to tighten investment policies regarding companies that sell weapons.

UC Riverside Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox signed off May 3 on an agreement to end the encampment at his campus. It was the first such agreement at a UC campus and said that the university would publicly make a “full disclosure” of the companies and size of its investments.

It also said that UC Riverside would form a task force that includes students and faculty to “explore the removal of UCR’s endowment from the management of the UC investments office and the investment of said endowment in a manner that will be financially and ethically sound for the university with consideration to the companies involved in arms manufacturing and delivery.” The task force would present its findings to the board of trustees by March 21, 2025.

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