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HomeNewsCampus NewsArrested student protesters face suspension, UCI Divest organizes walkout

Arrested student protesters face suspension, UCI Divest organizes walkout

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UCI Divest held a walkout on May 22 in response to the suspension of student protesters who were arrested on May 15 due to the police raid on the UCI Gaza Solidarity Encampment. 

After police broke up the encampment, all 27 arrested students — part of a group of 47 arrested protesters — were suspended, according to an Instagram post from UCI Divest. The post said that suspended students  were barred from going to class and accessing campus housing. It also said that graduate students who were suspended were required to teach remotely despite not being allowed on campus. 

New University reached out to the UCI Office of the Chancellor for comment on the recent suspensions. 

“The university is unable to comment on student conduct cases due to federal privacy law,” Assistant Vice Chancellor for Communication & Media Relations Michael Uhlenkamp said. 

During the walkout, members of the UCI community walked out of classes and work at 12:30 p.m. and gathered at the Flagpoles. Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered at the top of the stairs as leaders spoke to the crowd and led chants.  

“Today we are gathered here to demand UC administration to drop the suspensions of all the arrestees and demand amnesty to all those who were brutalized,” a protester said to the crowd.

At the same time, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 (AFSCME 3299) — a union representing over 30,000 UC service workers — picketed at Anteater Plaza. Members held signs demanding fair working provisions and “calls to divest more than $32 billion in its investment holdings from a range of industries,” the organization said in a press release to New University. 

“We’re picketing basically for a fair contract. We’ve been in negotiations with the UC for a while now and they have continuously have not followed through in terms of bargaining and giving the workers what they deserved,” Mo Villasenor, an AFSCME 3299 organizer, told New University.

Photo by Skylar Paxton / Staff

As walkout protesters moved from the Flagpoles to the Science Library, AFSCME and walkout protesters began clapping for each other as the groups passed each other. On Instagram, AFSCME released a statement supporting the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) union decision to strike in protest of the UC response to pro-Palestine encampments.  

Third-year student Anica Sherry was among the supporters at the walkout and rally. During the walk to the Science Library, Sherry spoke to New University about motivations for attending the walkout and recounted what they saw when the encampment was dismantled. 

“I was there and I thought it was horribly uncalled for and traumatizing to all of the students that were there,” they said. “And just an incredibly immature and irresponsible response on [Chancellor] Gillman’s part.”

Photo by Skylar Paxton / Staff

At the Science Library, protesters continued chants and speeches. A representative of the UCI Black Student Union (BSU) spoke to show the organization’s support for pro-Palestine protesters. On May 21, BSU released a statement that condemned Chancellor Gillman’s decision to call hundreds of police officers on campus to dismantle the encampment. 

“We urge Chancellor Gillman and the UCI administration to reconsider their approach to handling peaceful demonstrations and to engage in constructive dialogue with students rather than resorting to intimidation tactics,” the statement read. 

Photo by Skylar Paxton / Staff

From the library, protesters moved to the Physical Sciences Quad where the UCI Gaza Solidarity encampment previously stood. Global and international studies Assistant Professor Christopher Harris spoke as a representative of the Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine (FJP) to supporters in the middle of the quad.

“We’re organizing to leverage all institutions and extra institutional methods to ensure Gillman and other administrators face repercussions for their actions on Wednesday, including planning for votes of no confidence, votes of center and calling for campus policy reform,” Harris said. 

Photo by Skylar Paxton / Staff

While speakers continued to shout chants and cite testimonies from arrestees, protesters drew messages and pictures on the floor of the Physical Science Quad with chalk. Participants wrote messages such as “Free Palestine” and “Over 40,000 dead.” Others drew pictures of birds, flags and watermelons. 

A UCI student, who requested anonymity, spoke to New University after writing “Free Palestine” on the floor in cursive. They expressed what it was like watching live streams of the police raid on the encampment on May 15.

Photo by Skylar Paxton / Staff

“It was like a long process of just standing by and watching [the livestream] but I had so much work to do that day, but I just couldn’t,” the student stated. “I had an assignment to do but I couldn’t. It felt wrong to just look away, even though I’m not directly here.” 

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

Edited by Beatrice Lee, Karen Wang and Annabelle Aguirre.