UC Irvine Protest Erupts: 50 Arrested Amid Pro-Palestinian Demonstrations

Tensions escalated at the University of California, Irvine on Wednesday when several hundred pro-Palestinian protesters entered a lecture hall and surrounded the building, school officials reported.

The Irvine Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department responded after the university called for mutual aid from local law enforcement agencies, UC Irvine said in an emergency update. Authorities were seen putting protesters in zip-ties and escorting them away from the main protest area.

The university said Thursday that 50 people were arrested during the incident, mostly for failure to disperse, though some were arrested for trespassing. A breakdown of how many of those arrested were students will be released later, the school said.

“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 caused great distress to other members of our community,” Chancellor Howard Gillman said in a letter to the community Thursday.

“After weeks of assurances from the encampers that they were committed to maintaining a peaceful and non-disruptive encampment, it was terrible to see them dramatically alter the situation in a way that directly assaulted the rights of other students and the university mission,” he continued.

Police dismantled barricades from the encampment and people were asked to leave the building.

Protesters entered the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall on the UC Irvine campus at approximately 2:30 p.m. local time, according to the university. Classes for the remainder of the day were canceled and school officials urged anyone in the immediate area to evacuate.

“Anyone currently in buildings in the vicinity of the protest are advised to exit buildings & leave the area at this time,” UC Irvine wrote in an update on X. “Please disregard all previous orders to shelter in place. If able, please leave immediately & continue to avoid the protest area until further notice.”

By Wednesday night, police had broken up the campus encampment. UCI announced that classes on Thursday would be remote.

“UC Irvine will move to remote instruction on Thursday, May 16. Unless specifically noted, all employees should work remotely. Resident students may still access dining facilities. Protest activity continues. Please avoid the area until further notice,” read a post on the school’s X page Wednesday night.

“I’m sorry this campus I love so much had to experience this terrible and avoidable situation,” Gillman wrote Thursday. “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.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters have been present on the UC Irvine campus since establishing an encampment on April 29, according to the university. Wednesday’s unrest comes amid weeks of protests breaking out at universities across the country, calling for institutions to divest from companies that financially support Israel.

On Tuesday, UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher announced that investments from companies targeted by students for divestment represent $32 billion, nearly one-fifth, of the UC system’s overall assets. Last month, the University of California president said the institutions would not boycott or divest from Israel.