UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman called Wednesday a “sad day for our university” after police took multiple people into custody and cleared a Gaza Solidarity Encampment that had been on the campus for more than two weeks.

“I’m brokenhearted,” Gillman said in a late night message sent out to the campus community.

He added that although the encampment had violated university policies since its inception in late April, those violations did not rise to the level requiring police intervention — until Wednesday afternoon.

Gillman said the police response Wednesday was a last resort, that UC policy urges the exhaustion of “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,” he said. “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.”

Around 2 p.m. Wednesday, a crowd that swelled to an estimated 500 people, according to a university spokesperson, expanded the footprint of the encampment that was in a quad in front of the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall. A small group barricaded themselves inside the building. UCI issued an emergency campuswide alert confirming a “violent protest” in the area although it did not detail the nature of the violence.

“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,” Gillman said.

A statement from Students for Justice in Palestine at UCI, organizers of the Gaza Solidarity Encampment, said they were calling for action Wednesday on the 76th commemoration of Nakba, an annual remembrance that marks the start of a mass displacement of Palestinians in 1948.

Protestors gathered at UCI for the rally Wednesday also continued their calls for the university to divest from companies and institutions with ties to Israel and weapons manufacturers, an end of Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip, a reinvestment of funds into students and workers, among other demands.

Several involved students had received suspension notices last week from the university and Wednesday’s protest called for a reversal of those suspensions.

“Their suspensions, bad-faith negotiations, their lying emails, their threat of police – all of these are fear tactics meant to silence us, but we are strong in our resolve and we will not rest,” Sarah Khalil, chair of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCI, and a UCI student, said in a prepared statement released ahead of the protest.

Gillman said new demands were received at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

“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,” Gillman said. “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.”

Gillman continued in his statement:


UCI Chancellor Howard GillmanSteve Zylius/UCI

“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,” he said.

“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.”

UCI canceled classes Wednesday evening and all instruction will be conducted remotely Thursday. All employees, unless otherwise specified, have been asked to work from home.

Responding police had dismantled the encampment as they moved through the area pushing protesters out of the area.

Maintenance crews were out in the morning on Thursday power washing the quad where the encampment had set up over the last two weeks and Wednesday’s protest occurred.

This is a developing story, please check back.

Related Articles

Local News |

After protests, UCI cancels Wednesday evening classes; moves Thursday instruction online

Local News |

Police take some protesters at UC Irvine into custody, break up Gaza Solidarity Encampment

Local News |

UCI sends suspension notices to several students in the pro-Palestinian encampment on campus

Local News |

Pro-Palestinian rallies, events held across CSU system on ‘day of action’ but no disturbances

Local News |

Gaza solidarity encampments at UCI and Chapman continue to rally for changes