UC Irvine protest: Pro-Palestine demonstrators arrested after taking over campus building

The University of California, Irvine ordered everyone to leave campus as police in riot gear tore down a pro-Palestine encampment.

THE LATEST: 50 arrested at UC Irvine pro-Palestinian encampment protest

The university's push to get everyone to leave came after a shelter-in-place order was initially placed earlier in the afternoon. Those who followed the shelter-in-place order were asked to get off of UC Irvine's campus.

SkyFOX over the scene showed a large law enforcement presence as protesters were seen linking together and surrounding the physical sciences lecture hall, which has since been closed off. 

Police declared the protest an unlawful assembly and began making arrests one by one after protesters refused to clear the area. In total, 50 arrests were made. 

Some protesters who were arrested and led away told FOX 11 that they had done nothing wrong and were involved in a peaceful protest. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer issued a statement on X noting that failure to disperse after police declare an unlawful assembly is a crime.

Spitzer said "the right to peaceful assembly is a constitutional right and we encourage protesters to exercise their right to peaceful assembly; however, criminal activity which transcends peaceful assembly, including violence and vandalism of any kind, will not be tolerated. Any evidence of criminal activity, including failure to obey lawful orders to disperse, will be investigated and thoroughly reviewed to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed."

Protesters draped banners from a balcony of the building outlining their demands for divestment from Israel. On Instagram, the UCI Divest group says it is "reclaiming the university for Palestine and for the people." 

SUGGESTED: UCLA protest: Over 200 arrested as pro-Palestine encampment cleared

The group demanded that the university rescind suspension notices that were sent last week to some students involved in the protest, including some that were involved in negotiations with UCI officials, City News Service reported.

Suspected counter-protesters, one carrying a large American flag, were also seen near the encampment.

Image 1 of 15


Because this is a University of California school, the campus was under UC police jurisdiction. 

UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman issued the following open letter after Wednesday's campus clash between law enforcement and student-led demonstrators:

Dear Campus Community,

What a sad day for our university. I’m brokenhearted.

At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, we, along with most other UC campuses, received the latest "demands" from the protesters. The protesters orchestrated a swift departure from their encampment. In a coordinated fashion they moved out of the encampment to the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall, where a small group barricaded themselves in, supported by a large group of community members who had gathered for a scheduled rally.

For the last two weeks, I have consistently communicated that the encampment violated our policies but that the actions did not rise to the level requiring police intervention. My approach was consistent with the guidelines of UC's Robinson/Edley Report, which urges the UC to exhaust all possible alternatives before resorting to police intervention.

I was prepared to allow a peaceful encampment to exist on the campus without resorting to police intervention, even though the encampment violated our policies and the existence of the encampment was a matter of great distress to other members of our community. I communicated that if there were violations of our rules we would address them through the normal administrative policies of the university and not through police action.

And so after weeks when the encampers assured our community that they were committed to maintaining a peaceful and nondisruptive encampment, it was terrible to see that they would dramatically alter the situation in a way that was a direct assault on the rights of other students and the university mission.

The latest campus-specific and systemwide demands made by our encampers and their counterparts across the University of California attempted to dictate that anyone who disagreed with them must conform to their opinions. They asserted the right to oversee many elements of university operations involving the administration, faculty, students, and staff, bypassing customary campus protocols and ignoring the function of the Academic Senate.

Most importantly, their assault on the academic freedom rights of our faculty and the free speech rights of faculty and students was appalling. One can only imagine the response if people on the other side of these issues established an encampment to force me to censor all anti-Zionist academic and student programming.

But my concern now is not the unreasonableness of their demands. It is their decision to transform a manageable situation that did not have to involve police into a situation that required a different response. I never wanted that. I devoted all of my energies to prevent this from happening.

I’m sorry this campus I love so much had to experience this terrible and avoidable situation. I remain steadfast in my commitment to protecting the rights of all members of our community to express whatever viewpoints they believe are essential for others to hear and engage. And I remain steadfast in my commitment to defend our faculty and students from efforts to prevent them from having the same rights of academic freedom and free speech as everyone else on this campus.

My hope is that we can find our way to a culture of peace, mutual respect, and shared commitment to addressing our differences through the norms of scholarly inquiry and debate.

Fiat Lux,

Chancellor Howard Gillman

This came days after pro-Palestinian protesters attempted to disrupt Pomona College's commencement ceremony over the weekend at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

SUGGESTED: Pro-Palestinian protesters tried to disrupt Pomona College's commencement in LA

The move to the new location nearly 30 miles away from campus came after Pomona College announced that graduation ceremonies would be held off campus due to concerns over Palestinian supporters expanding an encampment near the commencement stage and the college increasing its security presence on campus.

Meanwhile, all operations at the University of California, Los Angeles returned to "normal" operations Monday after authorities dismantled a pro-Palestinian encampment on the Westwood campus. 

Law enforcement and security guards remain on campus until the foreseeable future as university leaders say they're at the school to promote safety and monitor conditions as far as continued protests go. 

SUGGESTED: UCLA student sues university over alleged tolerance of ‘campus terrorists'

The pro-Palestinian encampment on UCLA's campus was cleared May 2, and more than 200 protesters arrested following a nearly nine-hour standoff, bringing an end to a weeks-long protest calling on University of California officials to divest from Israel.