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Discord, unrest and arrests after police action at Palestinian encampment

Police+push+back+pro-Palestinian+protestors+early+May+1+on+University+Boulevard.+This+action+came+after+an+hours-long+series+of+threats+to+arrest+demonstrators+who+had+constructed+an+encampment+and+were+considered+by+the+university+to+be+trespassing.+
Noor Haghighi
Police push back pro-Palestinian protestors early May 1 on University Boulevard. This action came after an hours-long series of threats to arrest demonstrators who had constructed an encampment and were considered by the university to be trespassing.

A continuation of pro-Palestine protest efforts involving University of Arizona community members escalated into law enforcement deploying physical measures at a demonstration late Tuesday night and into early Wednesday morning. Four demonstrators were arrested following a confrontation with police that included the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

On the evening of April 30, members of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, SWAT forces, the University of Arizona Police Department and the Tucson Police Department arrived at the encampment, located at the Olive Grove near North Main Gate Square. The encampment, reinforced by sheet metal, wooden planks and tarps as a makeshift barricade was created at 3 p.m. on April 30.

Officers at 10:40 p.m. announced that protestors remaining would face potential arrest and, in the case of University of Arizona students, suspension or expulsion. At approximately 10:47 p.m., police began moving into the encampment, but quickly stalled progress and met to discuss an alternate strategy for deconstructing the barricade.

At 11:10 p.m., law enforcement officials, some armed with riot shields, gathered in a formation near  the barricade. The officers were met with water bottles and other flying projectiles from the encampment.

At approximately 11:30, SWAT forces also arrived at the encampment, after UAPD Sergeant Andrew Valenzuela made repeated announcements declaring the gathering an “unlawful assembly.”

Around midnight, Valenzuela threatened the use of chemical agents. Those protesting continued to hold down the encampment, with cheers echoing throughout the night.

Around 2 a.m., law enforcement made good on these threats and took further decisive action, deploying tear gas and using force to tear down the encampment. Officers moved in on the encampment from both sides, pushing demonstrators back on Park Avenue and forcing entry into the front of the encampment.

The University of Arizona released a statement, via Mitch Zak from university communications, that read: “University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins has directed University officials and the University of Arizona Police Department, to immediately enforce campus use policies and all corresponding laws without further warning. The UAPD is supported by members of the Tucson Police Department, Pima County Sheriff’s Office and the state’s Department of Public Safety. The University will continue to act in the best interests of our students, faculty and staff to ensure their safety.”

Protestors and police interact on University Boulevard after police tore down an encampment near North Main Gate Square on the morning of May 1.

In addition to this interaction with law enforcement, conflict broke out between pro-Palestinian protestors and counter protestors throughout the night, with some counter protesters tearing down parts of the encampment.

The creation of the encampment came one day after pro-Palestinian demonstrators had set up on the UA Mall and were ordered to disperse. Following their dispersal from the area, university officials implemented fences along the Mall and announced that the Mall would be closed until commencement May 10.

Demonstrators said they would continue to protest until the UA met their list of demands, some of which included stating solidarity with the Palestinian people, divesting from all companies “profiting from the occupation of Palestine,” dismissing certain members of the Dean’s Advisory Board in the College of Engineering and stopping its repression of student organizations.

“No matter what tonight looks like, we are not going to stop showing up,” said Harlow Parkin, a UA freshman at the demonstration earlier in the day. “Until those demands are met, we will not be quiet, we will not stop showing up for Palestine.”

UPDATE:

According to Parkin, the four demonstrators detained Wednesday morning were released by 11:45 a.m.

In an email statement to the campus community Wednesday afternoon, President Dr. Robert C. Robbins stated that “four individuals were arrested: three for criminal trespass, and one for criminal trespass and aggravated assault against a peace officer. One was an undergraduate student, another a graduate student, and two were unaffiliated with the University.”

According to the email, “due to the dangerous actions of the protestors, law enforcement had little choice but to take significant measures, including the wearing of tactical safety gear and a minimal use of pepper balls and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and to protect themselves and others while clearing the area.”

Robbins also said that the university will enforce the prohibition of shade structures, prohibit large gatherings on campus that lack a permit and take a zero tolerance approach to campus use policy, “which can include issuing no warnings before taking action.”


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