Police called in as protesters take building at University of California, Irvine

By Thomson Reuters May 15, 2024 | 7:22 PM

(Reuters) – Pro-Palestinian protesters occupied a building at the University of California, Irvine, on Wednesday, leading university officials to call in multiple police agencies, cancel classes and advise people on campus to shelter in place, a university spokesperson said.

No arrests or injuries were reported as several law-enforcement agencies from Orange County including Irvine police responded to a university request for assistance, a spokesperson for Irvine police said.

The demonstration at Irvine, about 40 miles (65 km) south of Los Angeles, is the latest in a series of campus protests across the United States over the war in Gaza in which activists have called for a ceasefire and the protection of civilian lives while demanding universities divest from Israeli interests.

About 200 to 300 protesters surrounded a UC Irvine lecture hall at a time when no classes were in session, university spokesperson Tom Vasich said. Campus police responded and called for help from nearby agencies, with Irvine police and Orange County sheriff’s deputies among those arriving on campus, Vasich said.

Police in riot gear formed a barricade, and an officer on a loudspeaker warned the crowd that they had formed an unlawful assembly and risked arrest if they remained on site, the Orange County Register reported.

Four adjacent research buildings with potentially hundreds of people inside were locked down and the people inside were instructed to shelter in place, Vasich said. Classes were canceled for the rest of the day, he said.

The lecture hall was near the site of a student encampment similar to those at other universities that have led to mass arrests and clashes with police elsewhere in the country.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Diane Craft)