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Traces of encampment gone after police raid; UCI campus temporarily turns to remote operations

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Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 5/17/2024 for clarification regarding the shuttles used to transport those arrested at the protest.

On May 16, the morning after the raid on the UCI Gaza Solidarity Encampment, all remnants of the encampment were cleared. The pavement was power washed and chairs and tables were returned to their original place. A UCI Police vehicle was spotted at approximately 11:12 a.m. and an officer with a police service dog searched the area. 

At 12 p.m. a UCI official told students at the Physical Sciences Quad that the area was closed and they would have to leave. 

A UCI staff member, who requested anonymity, brought their yoga mat to meditate in the Quad and said they felt the response to raid the encampment the day prior was “inappropriate.” 

“I don’t think anything here in Irvine can constitute as a ‘civil unrest’. The language has been troubling to hear. Even the announcements that were made, ‘the encampers’ against our community, as if they are not part of that same community,” they said. 

Last night, Chancellor Howard Gillman sent out a campus-wide email regarding the protests. The message read that Gillman was prepared to allow the encampment to remain at the Physical Science Quad despite violations in campus policy. 

“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.”

The message further explains how unreasonable the demands of the student protesters were and how the response to use police was not what Chancellor Gillman wanted. He apologized to the campus community for having to “experience this terrible and avoidable situation.”

New University reached out to the Chancellor’s office for a comment on the police presence and protester arrests and was referred to the aforementioned email.

Photo by Moh Samhouri / Staff 

Students walking through the Physical Sciences Quad, who requested anonymity, said they were not “shocked” to see the clean pavement and cleared area. 

“I think it’s the most typical Irvine response I can imagine,” one student said. “It’s disappointing, seeing the chancellor’s messages that show zero sympathy to the violence that he chose to initiate by pushing students out of an assembly area. Instead of crowd control, it was really crowd erasure.” 

The student was in class yesterday when an emergency alert system flashed on the projector screen. 

Multiple campus events have been canceled due to the raid. The Associated Students of UCI (ASUCI) announced on Instagram that Summerlands 2024 was canceled. The event was set to take place this Friday, May 17. 

“With the safety, well-being, and peace of mind of all involved as our top priority, as well as being unable to meet the current timeframe for preparation and setup, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Summerlands 2024,” the announcement read. 

ASUCI also announced yesterday that Zot Tank was canceled due to the protests. It was set to take place on the night of the raid. 

The UCI LGBT+ Center (UCI LGBTRC) announced on their Instagram story that the center will also be closed due to the protest events. Their End of the Year and Lavender Graduation events were also canceled. 

UCI Hillel canceled their talk event called “Israel Through Different Lenses,” making the announcement via an Instagram story post. Following that was another post that asked UCI members to reach out to staff if needed as the events “happening on campus are stressful and scary” These posts have since been deleted.  

A memo to administration by the ASUCI and Associated Graduate Students (AGS) was released today on Instagram. The memo on “the Violation of Student Rights and Safety at UCI” expressed the distress felt over the raid.

“Our students’ lives and safety should be the number one priority for our campus,” the memo read. “The actions today put this in serious doubt and have made us all reconsider the sincerity of our university in your claims of campus safety and community outreach during times like these.” The memo was written and submitted by Presidents and President-Elects of ASUCI and AGS. 

Photo by Moh Samhouri / Staff 

ABC7 LA reported that the detained protesters were processed in the parking lot by the encampment. Police took mugshot photos of those detained and multiple individuals were transported to detention centers in Irvine and Santa Ana. On Reddit, u/Poe293 shared that “Anteater Express” buses were used to transport the detained protesters. The photo shows that the vehicles were UCI-branded shuttles, not Anteater Express buses.

Officers threatened to use methods including less lethal munitions, chemical agents and police batons. No less lethal weapons or chemical agents were used against protesters. 

Orange County Supervisor Vicente Sarmiento issued a statement thanking UCI students who contacted his office regarding the “overreaction to an otherwise peaceful protest.” According to the statement, Sarmiento contacted the UCI administration and the OC Sheriff’s Department “reminding them to ensure a safe environment for students.” 

“Despite my calls, the administration chose to direct law enforcement to confront and intimidate students rather than engage with them and listen,” the statement read. “This is a sad and disheartening day for the UCI campus. I stand with all students in their efforts to peacefully protest and voice their opinions.” 

On May 15, UAW 4811 members voted to authorize a strike in response to unresolved unfair labor practice charges about their members being “beaten, concussed, pepper sprayed.” 

“UC’s unprecedented acts of intimidation and retaliation” according to their website, and unresolved unfair labor practice charges. UAW 4811 is the labor union chapter representing 48,000 UC academic student employees including Teaching Assistants (TAs). 

79% of participating members voted to authorize the strike. Their five demands some of which include amnesty for all academic employees and students who face disciplinary action or arrest due to protest, and the divestment from UC’s known investments in weapons manufacturers. 

The union also cited campuses that successfully reached agreements with student protestors, including UC Riverside. The strike is a complete work stoppage and some TA have sent emails to students regarding the strike. 

“Depending on how quickly our union decides to initiate a strike, [another TA] and I will begin striking out TA-labor,” read a message to students by a UCI TA. “Should/when that happens, [another TA] and I will do our best to make sure there is a smooth transition to a TA-less course.” 

A UC statement released on May 16 said that the strike was unlawful. “UAW’s decision to strike over non-labor issues violates the no-strike clause of their contracts with UC and sets a dangerous and far-reaching precedent that social, political and cultural issues — no matter how valid — that are not labor-related can support a labor strike,” Melissa Matella, the Associate Vice President of Employee and Labor Relations, said in the message. 

The message cited a part of the contract that explains strikes cannot be made if they interfere with university operations. They also indicated that the University was not made aware that the student protests were connected to “any labor dispute or the terms of employment for students, some of whom are also UAW members in their capacity as University employees.” They emphasized that the political demands from students and UAW 4811 were outside the terms of the UC’s agreement with the union. 

Skylar Paxton is an Opinion Apprentice. She can be reached at paxtons@uci.edu.​​ 

Emilie Takahashi is a Campus News Staff Writer. She can be reached at takahae1@uci.edu

Edited by Annabelle Aguirre