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University of California, Irvine students launch encampment for Gaza an resist police repression

By David Pulido

Palestine solidarity encampment at UC Irvine. | Fight Back! News/staff

Irvine, CA – On Monday, April 29, a gathering of about 70 students and faculty swelled to over 200 people to demand that the University of California, Irvine (UCI) divest completely from Israel.

“The community is what keeps UCI running. Without our labor, without our tuition, the university is nothing. So, they are going to bend to our demands! They are going to end their complicity in the genocide in Palestine because we keep this university running, and we are going to take back our university,” a student organizer declared.

Earlier that day, dozens of officers from several departments descended on the campus to repress the Palestine Solidarity Encampment. These departments included Irvine PD, Costa Mesa PD, and Newport PD. 30 officers came from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department alone, decked out in riot gear and face shields.

John Nonato of Anakbayan UCI said of the police, “Throughout the whole encampment today, police have been threatening arrest of the students, just for going to the bathroom. They’ve been preventing supplies, food and water from getting in. They were saying they would arrest people for bringing in the food and supplies. We stood our ground!”

Police erected barricades around the encampment and denied students entry or exit. Officers in riot gear were seen training in parking lots, and jail buses were brought on campus. However, the massive community turnout reinforced the encampment and forced the university to back down on its hardline approach.

Rain Mendoza of Community Service Organization Orange County (CSO OC) said, “UCI has a history of severe police repression. I was a student in 2020 when a wildcat strike for a cost-of-living adjustment took place, and I protested alongside my fellow student faculty. I remember how UCIPD locked down the campus and brutally arrested Shikera Chamndany, an African-American alumni who was not even part of the rally. So, I am proud of the student encampment, their resistance and their solidarity with Gaza. Long live Palestine!”

Prayer echoed across the campus as inside the encampment, tarps were spread out on pavement for worship. Lawyers held workshops to educate protesters on their First Amendment rights. Children wove around tents and police barricades, chasing each other around the encampment while police waited in their cruisers.

Diana Terreros of Freedom Road Socialist Organization said, “Students across the country are protesting to end a genocide, and the response of the universities has been to repress these protests with police violence, at times with same police that trains with the IDF [the Israeli military] themselves. These brave students are now risking arrest and academic disciplinary action, such as expulsion. But they are not backing down because they know it's right to stand against genocide and stand for a free Palestine!”

Encampment demands include that the university divest funds from companies that are complicit in the Israeli occupation and genocide, sever its ties with the U.S. military, and revoke all disciplinary action against students. They also include reinvestment in student programs such as housing security, childcare, and ethnic studies.

Nonato spoke on the achievements of the encampment, saying, “Today we were able to meet with administration and get our demands on the table. The biggest accomplishment today was getting this turnout and bringing the community together, showing how powerful the movement is, and that students and workers and faculty are all working together to condemn this genocide. They’re not backing down on their demands!”

#IrvineCA #CA #StudentMovement #SDS #AntiWarMovement #International #MiddleEast #Palestine #Occupy4Gaza #FRSO