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Violence and chaos erupt at encampment protests

Tear+gas%2C+deployed+by+law+enforcement+officials%2C+surrounds+protestors+gathered+along+Park+Avenue+after+having+fled+their+encampment+on+the+morning+of+May+10.+SWAT+vans+were+also+present+north+of+University+Boulevard+and+Park+Avenue.+
Mason Kumet
Tear gas, deployed by law enforcement officials, surrounds protestors gathered along Park Avenue after having fled their encampment on the morning of May 10. SWAT vans were also present north of University Boulevard and Park Avenue.

The University of Arizona witnessed another night of violence and unrest as law enforcement officers deployed physical measures against pro-Palestinian demonstrators Thursday night and into Friday morning.

Just after midnight, gathered law enforcement, including the UA Police Department, SWAT and the Tucson Police Department, fired tear gas canisters into crowds of demonstrators and bystanders alike on Park Avenue in the early hours of Friday, May 10. 

Demonstrators insisted the protest was peaceful, but UAPD Sergeant Andrew Valenzuela continuously asserted that the group was trespassing, declared the encampment an “unlawful assembly” and warned those assembled that police would deploy chemical munitions. 

A group of pro-Palestinian protestors gathered at the Olive Grove near North Main Gate Square on the evening of Thursday, May 9. Protestors were met with police confrontation early May 10.

We have given you multiple warnings […] you have every chance to leave. We want you to leave the area,” Valenzuela said.

“This is a peaceful assembly. Why would you want to harm peaceful protestors. Shame on you,” a protestor said to the gathered police forces.

Minutes after this exchange, tear gas was fired on the demonstrators forming a human barricade on Park Avenue and on bystanders, including members of the media, retreating south on Park. 

At the same time this confrontation was taking place on University Boulevard and Park Avenue, many seniors were celebrating their graduation as well. The Cupid Shuffle could be heard playing from Gentle Ben’s at the same time demonstrators were being forced down University Boulevard.

The campus hub was in no way spared from the night’s violence; after the protest had dispersed, remnants of destroyed planters filled the sidewalk and a graffiti tag reading “Free Gaza” was painted outside Woops! Bakeshop & Gifts.

Graffiti reading “Free Gaza” adorns the walled exterior of Woops! Bakeshop & Gifts, located on University Boulevard on the morning of May 10.
A pair of safety goggles, meant to defend against tear gas, lies abandoned along Park Avenue in the early hours of Friday, May 10.

“Keep students safe” was a chant frequently heard during the night, led by a faculty group called Keeping Students Safe that was present at the protest. One faculty member said the role of the group was to protect students and make its presence visible so that students knew they were supported.

“So that law enforcement and administrators know that we are here to observe what they are doing and to make sure that students’ physical safety is being respected,” the faculty member said. 

The faculty group condemned law enforcement’s actions at the May 1 protest and demanded the university do a better job protecting its students.

A statement from the university said the actions taken on May 1 and this morning reflect a commitment to ensuring student safety. 

“The University of Arizona Police Department is enforcing our campus use policy to remove an unauthorized encampment. A structure made from wooden pallets and other debris was erected on campus property after 5 p.m. in violation of the policy. University officials issued warnings to remove the encampment and disperse. The warnings were ignored.

University President [Dr.] Robert C. Robbins has initiated a zero-tolerance approach to enforcing its campus use policy to protect the campus, students, faculty, visitors, and university events. This evening, police vehicles have been spiked, and rocks and water bottles have been thrown at officers and university staff. Those who have violated the law are subject to arrest and prosecution. University officials have taken action to ensure the safety of Centennial Hall convocation attendees,” the statement read.

Organizers of the protest said demonstrations like this will continue until the university meets its demands, some of which include a public condemnation of Israel’s “genocidal campaign,” the disclosure of the university’s financial ties to Israel and the divestment from all companies “profiting from the occupation of Palestine,” according to a list posted by the Tucson Coalition for Palestine.


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