Crowd at Gaza Solidarity Encampment demanding UCI reverse suspensions, divest; police have arrived – Orange County Register

Students and supporters calling for UC Irvine administrators to drop suspensions of students involved in a Gaza Solidarity Encampment on campus and meet other demands kicked up the pressure on Wednesday.

A couple hundred supporters gathered right outside the walls of the Pro-Palestinian encampment in the afternoon in response to a call for an emergency coalition protest.

Over the course of an hour, the encampment was expanded to take over the quad area in front of the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall and protesters were seen chanting from the second floor balcony of the hall. They unfurled a painted banner “Alex Odeh Hall” in honor of the Palestinian activist who died in a 1985 office bombing in Santa Ana.

The main walkway from the nearby parking lot serving that section of campus was blocked and a human wall was being formed.

UC Irvine police and security started to block some of the buildings in the area. Police in riot gear also started to arrive on campus and form a barricade. Announcements have been made overhead from a helicopter for people to leave immediately.

The Gaza Solidarity Encampment at the UC Irvine campus formed April 29 in front of the hall with students sleeping in tents and hosting teach-ins, speakers and other outreach activities.

Last week, UCI sent suspension notices to several students, including those who had been part of the negotiating team representing the encampment in talks with university administration over demands.

The pro-Palestinian protesters at UCI have repeatedly said they will not be leaving the encampment until the university divests from companies and institutions with ties to Israel and weapons manufacturers, “reinvests money into students and workers” and calls for and end of Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip, among other demands.

Amnesty for involved students has also been part of the demands.

“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.

When approached Wednesday at the protest, Khalil would not comment further and other participating students said leaders of the movement said not to talk with the media.

Organizers with the SJP group also said their call to action Wednesday was meant to “commemorate 76 years of Palestinian resistance in the face of violent, illegal occupation.”

“Over 40,000 dead, you’re suspending kids instead,” “We will not stop, we will not rest until UCI divests,”  and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” were among the chants that could be heard. Some were chanting from the second level of the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall.

This is a developing story, please check back.

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