Campus Speech | Protest

Police in Riot Gear Surround Israel-Hamas War Protesters at UC Santa Cruz

March in support of Palestinians, in Seattle
A U.S. flag flies at half-staff for Memorial Day as a pro-Palestinian demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag at a rally in Pike Place Market as part of the “March for Nakba 76” event, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Seattle, Washington. May 27, 2024. (Reuters/David Ryder)

By The Associated Press

Police in riot gear surrounded arm-in-arm protesters Friday at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where pro-Palestinian demonstrations have blocked the main entrance to the campus this week.

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

A university spokesperson said arrests were made, KION-TV reported. The university didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. It wasn’t known if anyone was injured. The university was holding classes remotely Friday.

“We call on these protesters to immediately reopen full access to the campus and return to protesting in a manner consistent with both our community values and our student code of conduct. Denying instructional access is not free speech,” university leaders had said in a letter to the community Thursday.

Graduate student workers at UC Santa Cruz continued a strike that began last week over the university system’s treatment of pro-Palestinian protesters.

Protest camps sprang up across the U.S. and in Europe this spring as students demanded their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that they say support its war in Gaza. Organizers seek to amplify calls to end Israel’s war with Hamas, which they describe as a genocide against the Palestinians.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 83 incidents since April 18 in which arrests were made at campus protests across the U.S. More than 3,025 people have been arrested at 62 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.

The confrontation in 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.

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.”

Another outdoor commencement ceremony was scheduled Friday at MIT in Cambridge, near Boston, a day after some graduates walked out of one, 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 degree in chemistry and walked out. “There are no graduates in Gaza. There are no universities left in Gaza left because Israeli has bombed every single one.”

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.