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Police eject pro-Palestinian protesters from University of California, Irvine

Police on Wednesday took back a lecture hall from pro-Palestinian protesters who for hours occupied the building at the University of California, Irvine, then cleared a student encampment that stood for more than two weeks, witnesses said.

University officials asked for help because protesters had occupied a lecture hall

Police in helmets and face shields arrest a woman in a crowd.

Police on Wednesday took back a lecture hall from pro-Palestinian protesters who for hours occupied the building at the University of California, Irvine, then cleared a student encampment that stood for more than two weeks, witnesses said.

Officers from about 10 nearby law-enforcement agencies converged on the campus after university officials requested help because protesters had occupied the lecture hall, leading the school to declare it a "violent protest," police and university officials said.

About four hours later, police had ejected the protesters from both the lecture hall and the plaza that had been the site of the encampment, according to the university and Reuters witnesses.

"The police have retaken the lecture hall," UC Irvine spokesperson Tom Vasich said by telephone from the scene. "The plaza has been cleared by law-enforcement officers."

Vasich said there were a "minimal number of arrests" and characterized the protesters as "begrudgingly co-operative."

The university said all classes would be held remotely on Thursday, asking employees not to come to campus.

A man stands in front of a row of police officers. His arms are aloft and he hold flowers in both hands and wears a flag around his neck like a cape.

Latest U.S. campus protest

The demonstration at Irvine, about 65 kilometres 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.

UC Irvine protesters had established an encampment adjacent to the lecture hall on April 29 similar to those at other universities that have led to mass arrests and clashes with police elsewhere in the country.

On Wednesday 200 to 300 protesters took over the lecture hall at a time when no classes were in session, Vasich said.

Police officers appear in silhouette beside illuminated windows of a building.

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

Video on social media showed students chanting slogans, banging drums and hoisting banners, with rows of police standing nearby. One banner hung from the building declared the site "Alex Odeh Hall," in honour of a Palestinian activist who was killed in a 1985 office bombing in the nearby city of Santa Ana.

Four nearby research buildings with potentially hundreds of people inside were locked down, and those inside were instructed to shelter in place, Vasich said, though the university later altered that instruction and instead advised them to leave.

Officers wearing face shields and carrying batons, confront protesters.

Chancellor Howard Gillman has said the university has been in talks with students since the encampment was set up but has been unable to reach an agreement to find an "appropriate and non-disruptive" alternative site.

Gillman has said the university cannot selectively decide against enforcing rules against encampment and that "The University of California has made it clear it will not divest from Israel."

"Encampment protesters have focused most of their demands on actions that would require the university to violate the academic freedom rights of faculty, the free speech rights of faculty and fellow students, and the civil rights of many of our Jewish students," Gillman said on Monday.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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