Police break up anti-Israel protest encampment, arrest 80 at UC Santa Cruz

Campuses in Cambridge, Detroit also see clashes, as resurgent anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University criticized by ADL for sharing ‘fawning’ guides to terrorism

Illustrative: UC Santa Cruz workers who are union members of UAW 4811 and pro-Palestinian protesters carry signs as they demonstrate in front of the UC Santa Cruz campus on May 20, 2024 in Santa Cruz, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)
Illustrative: UC Santa Cruz workers who are union members of UAW 4811 and pro-Palestinian protesters carry signs as they demonstrate in front of the UC Santa Cruz campus on May 20, 2024 in Santa Cruz, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)

Police in riot gear surrounded arm-in-arm protesters Friday at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to remove an encampment and barricades where pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrations have blocked the main entrance to the campus this week. Dozens were arrested, the university said.

Campus, local and state police swarmed the protesters, and video from local news stations showed officers telling people to leave, then taking away signs and part of a barricade. There appeared to be some pushing and shoving between police and protesters. Officers carried zip ties and appeared to detain a few people.

“For weeks, encampment participants were given repeated, clear direction to remove the encampment and cease blocking access to numerous campus resources and to the campus itself,” Scott Hernandez-Jason, a spokesperson for the university, said in a statement Friday.

“They were notified that their actions were unlawful and unsafe. And this morning they were also given multiple warnings by law enforcement to leave the area and disperse to avoid arrest. Unfortunately, many refused to follow this directive and many individuals are being arrested,” Hernandez-Jason said.

Approximately 80 demonstrators were arrested, said university spokesperson Abby Butler. UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive said in a letter to the community Friday that some demonstrators remained at the entrance.

She said that the road blockades, “with fortified and chained barricades made of pallets and other materials, and other unlawful actions, disrupted campus operations and threatened safety, including delaying access of emergency vehicles.”

It was unclear if anyone was injured. The university was holding classes remotely Friday.

Graduate student workers at UC Santa Cruz continued a strike that began last week over the university system’s treatment of pro-Palestinian protesters. The strike will expand to three more campuses next week, their union said Friday.

The strikes began May 20 at UC Santa Cruz, and then extended to UCLA and UC Davis. Members at UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego will walk out on June 3 and at UC Irvine on June 5, said the student workers’ union, UAW Local 4811.

The union’s members include graduate teaching assistants, researchers and other academic employees. The UC president’s office said the union was violating its contract’s no-strike clause and disrupting students’ critical year-end activities.

Illustrative: UC Santa Cruz workers affiliated with the UAW 4811 workers’ union carry signs alongside pro-Palestinian protesters at a demonstration in front of the UC Santa Cruz campus in California, May 20, 2024. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via AFP)

Protest camps sprang up across the United States and Europe this spring as students demanded their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that they say support its war in Gaza. Some researchers have said the effect of such a move on Israel’s economy would be negligible and possibly counterproductive to the protesters’ goals.

Organizers seek to amplify calls to end Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’s shock October 7 assault, in which thousands of terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take over 250 hostages.

Israel’s military response has killed over 36,000 people, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, whose figures cannot be verified and include some 15,000 gunmen Israel claims to have killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 84 incidents since April 18 where arrests were made at campus protests across the US. At least 3,117 people have been arrested on the campuses of 63 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.

The wave of arrests began after a “Gaza Solidarity encampment” at New York’s Columbia University was aggressively dispersed by city police, leading students on campuses nationwide to set up similar encampments, many of which were dismantled by law enforcement summoned by campus administrators.

Footage that surfaced on social media on Friday showed law enforcement confronting protesters at a resurgent Columbia encampment. One photograph showed a sign at the encampment’s entrance reading: “We’re back, bitches.”

The Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based antisemitism watchdog, accused Columbia’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine — which the university had suspended early in the war — of promoting terrorist content on a Telegram channel the Columbia SJP said it had set up after being banned on Instagram.

Pinned to the SJP’s new Telegram channel, the ADL noted, was a “fawning” guide of Palestinian terror groups produced by the virulently anti-Israel “Resistance News Network” (Anglophone Hamas supporters frequently refer to it as “the Resistance,” paraphrasing the terror group’s full Arabic name). Each of the guide’s sections featured a different group, giving details of its ammunition, area of activity, and names of senior figures, some of the “martyrs.”

Other messages in the Telegram channel included laudatory notes about Fatima Bernawi, whom Israel convicted of trying to bomb a movie theater, and a Hamas operative’s determination to continue fighting despite having his legs amputated.

The confrontations in New York and California came a day after arrests at a pro-Palestinian encampment at a Detroit campus and a student walkout during commencement at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

On Thursday, police in riot gear removed fencing and broke down tents erected last week on green space near the undergraduate library at Wayne State University in Detroit. At least 12 people were arrested.

Wayne State University President Kimberly Andrews Espy cited health and safety concerns and disruptions to campus operations. Staff were encouraged to work remotely this week, and in-person summer classes were suspended.

The camp, she said, “created an environment of exclusion — one in which some members of our campus community felt unwelcome and unable to fully participate in campus life.”

An outdoor commencement ceremony went uninterrupted Friday at MIT in Cambridge, near Boston. On Thursday, some graduates walked out of another ceremony, disrupting it for 10 to 15 minutes. They wore keffiyehs, the checkered scarves that represent Palestinian solidarity, over their caps and gowns, chanted “free, free Palestine,” and held signs that said, “All eyes on Rafah.”

“There is going to be no business as usual as long as MIT holds research projects with the Israeli Ministry of Defense,” said David Berkinsky, 27, who earned a doctorate in chemistry and walked out.

Anti-Israel graduates leave an outdoor commencement at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Thursday, May 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Casey)

“There are no graduates in Gaza. There are no universities left in Gaza left because Israel has bombed every single one,” said Berkinsky.

Some people at the event swore at the protesters and yelled, “Good riddance to Hamas terror fans.” A pro-Palestinian encampment at MIT was cleared in early May.

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