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Several protesters arrested at UC Irvine campus as authorities move in to clear pro-Palestinian encampment

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) — Several people were arrested Wednesday afternoon as a pro-Palestinian demonstration took a tense turn, provoking a massive response from law enforcement.

Protesters began gathering around the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall around 2:30 p.m., where an encampment — similar to those seen on college campuses across the country — has been in place for weeks.

The protesters – who are demanding that the university disengage from Israel over the Hamas war – began blocking the entrance to the building, stacking tents on top of each other to form a makeshift barricade.

Hundreds of police officers and sheriff’s deputies in riot gear descended on campus and began arresting protesters and dismantling the encampment in the early evening after they declared an unlawful assembly and ordered the crowd to disperse . The number of arrests is unknown during the active situation.

AIR7 HD was above the scene and captured hundreds of officers and deputies in riot gear as they confronted the protesters, sparking a tense moment between the two groups.

For most of the afternoon and into the evening, the situation appeared tense, but there were no moments of drastic violence between the two sides. A woman who was arrested by police said she was a professor in the global studies department.

“We cannot pursue a genocidal foreign policy in a democracy,” she said. “These young people will be the ones who have to pay the price for these horrible decisions.”

When asked if she feared her actions would jeopardize her job, she replied: “What job do I have if students don’t have a future?”

Classes for the remainder of the day were canceled and school officials urged anyone in the immediate area to evacuate until further notice.

“Anyone currently in buildings near the protest is advised to exit the buildings. & leave the area at this time,” UC Irvine wrote in an update on X. “Please disregard all previous orders to shelter in place. If possible, please leave immediately & continue to avoid the protest area until further notice.

Local leaders speak out

As the situation developed throughout the afternoon, several Orange County leaders took to social media to share their thoughts, pushing for peaceful protests.

Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan spoke to X and said, “It’s a shame that peaceful protests for free speech are always met with violence. Taking up space on campus or in a building does not pose a threat to anyone. UCI leaders must do everything they can to avoid creating a violent scenario here. These are your unarmed students.

Meanwhile, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley issued a statement saying that “we cannot allow recent escalations that include disrupting classes and vandalizing campus property.”

“The UCI is a place of learning, research and freedom of expression. To maintain this, the situation around these protests must remain peaceful. I have contacted the Chancellor to encourage the administration to demonstrate of restraint, to peacefully disperse the demonstrators, then to resume the fight with our students.

Students maintain their efforts

Wednesday’s unrest comes amid weeks of protests that have erupted at universities across the country, calling on institutions to divest from companies that financially support Israel.

On Tuesday, UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher announced that investments by companies targeted by students in their call for divestment amounted to $32 billion, or nearly a fifth of the system’s overall assets. UC.

Last month, the president of the University of California said the institutions would not boycott or divest from Israel.

In a statement Monday, UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said the university “cannot selectively waive our anti-encampment rules (or other relevant policies) for this situation and not for others.” other situations. Such selective application is illegal.

The statement goes on to say: “Additionally, a decision to abandon enforcement of our policies would effectively allow any group of people – campus affiliated or otherwise – to come to campus and set up an encampment to for any reason, without consequences. Setting such a precedent would create continued threats to the safety of our community and our ability to do our important work.

ABC News contributed to this report.

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