.UPDATED: Police Dismantle UCSC Protest

Detained students barred from campus for 14 days

This story was updated June 4 at 3:00 p.m.

After a major police crackdown on a pro-Palestine campus protest last Friday, UC Santa Cruz has resumed in-person classes this week for the last stretch of the academic quarter after being held online for weeks due to the actions.

Access to campus—which was temporarily blockaded by students and, later, by police—has been restored. The upcoming commencement ceremonies, which are scheduled to take place next week, are also on track.

Law enforcement agencies from across the state were called in to dismantle a pro-Palestine encampment at the base of the UC Santa Cruz campus in the early hours of May 31. Several hundred demonstrators had joined a blockade in protest of the Gaza-Israel war, a blockade which began earlier that week. Vehicle access had been intermittently cut off, and University administration officials cited this as the reason for the crackdown.

The lines of police officers and students drew nearer as the incident dragged on. PHOTO: Todd Guild.

University officials said over 100 protesters were arrested as of May 31, but organizers said that number could be higher than 100. The University also issued a two-week campus ban for students who were detained at the protest. The ban extends until June 14, which marks the beginning of UCSC’s commencement week.

UCSC Police did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the numbers of demonstrators the agency detained. According to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office arrest log, over 25 people were processed and released through the main jail.

The number of demonstrators at the base of campus swelled late Thursday night, after the UCSC chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine made a call for support through its Instagram page in response to the deployment of hundreds of police.

The intersection of Bay and High had been the site of an ongoing picket by graduate student workers represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) 4811. The union voted to strike in support of UC students who were cleared out of UCLA’s pro-Palestine encampment.

Earlier in May, UCSC SJP began its own encampment at the University’s Quarry Plaza echoing other campus protesters’ demands that colleges nationwide divest from companies with ties to Israel.

A hard closure was enforced by police on High Street at Moore Street on Thursday, as well as at other campus entrances, and the public—as well as members of the press—were blocked by Santa Cruz Police from entering the area for several hours.

Around midnight, police began dismantling the tents by smashing them to the ground, students said.

“They ripped through the camp and destroyed whatever tents and belongings they could find,” said a media liaison from the encampment who called herself “Savvy.”

“We are peaceful protestors, but still they feel the need to be in complete riot gear with guns and batons pointed at us,” Savvy said. “We will hold here for as long as we can and show the police and the university that we are not backing down and there is nothing they can do to scare us away from this movement.”

Protestors and police face-off in the early morning hours before mass arrests and the dismantling of the protest camp. PHOTO: Todd Guild.

One protester was seen spitting at a police officer, according to a freelance photographer on the scene. The protestor was pulled to the ground by multiple officers and a bag was placed on his head, seemingly to prevent him from spitting. He was arrested on suspicion of assault.

Police ordered protesters to disperse over a loudspeaker, telling them that their occupation of the parking lot was unauthorized and that they risked arrest by remaining.

Sophia Azeb, a professor in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, posted on her X account a picture of her wrist in a bandage and said that she had bruises on her neck from being choked by police.

“THE HONOR OF PROTECTING MY STUDENTS WAS WORTH IT,” she wrote in a post on June 1.

A Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office bus is seen at the intersection of Bay and High streets near the UCSC entrance on Friday, May 31. PHOTO: William S. Woodhams.

Two arrested protesters said they were held on a bus operated by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office for over two hours early Friday. They allege police blared loud music inside the bus as an intimidation tactic.

“They parked in the parking lot of the Santa Cruz County Jail and left us there and they were just outside talking,” said a third-year student who goes by the name “Ginko.” “There were people that needed to pee. There were people who were bleeding through their pants because they needed to change tampons.

University representatives did not respond to a request for comment about the allegations by print deadline.

Detained protestors waiting to be loaded onto vans look on as police dismantle their encampment. PHOTO: William S. Woodhams.

University of California President Michael V. Drake released a statement on May 31 giving the administration’s reasoning for the crackdown.

“For the past week, individuals including UC employees represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) and others protesting the war in Israel and Gaza have intermittently blocked the only two campus entrances and exits at UC Santa Cruz. At various points, members of the campus community have been prevented from entering campus and significantly impeded from exiting it. This resulted in delayed access for emergency personnel and vehicles; childcare challenges for staff, faculty, and students; missed medical appointments; and difficulty accessing jobs, classes, and other educational, health care, and student support facilities and services on campus. In one especially disturbing case, on Tuesday an emergency medical vehicle was prevented from accessing a facility in which a toddler was in distress,” Drake said.

Savvy said that the law enforcement action came as no surprise, and will not dissuade the ongoing protest.

“We are not going to be giving up, giving up our camp or giving in to police pressure,” she said. “It’s definitely a great loss losing this community, but that doesn’t mean that this fight is over.”

After a night of arrests and chaos, the last of student protesters chain arms and attempt to stand their ground as California Highway Patrol officers close in, yanking out individuals to be arrested Friday May 31. PHOTO: Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo

College campus protests in support of Gaza and Palestine have erupted nationwide, calling for a ceasefire and that universities divest from companies with ties to Israel. As Israel’s response to the October 7 attack continues, the death toll has risen to over 36,000 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and Hamas officials. The attack left 1,200 dead and over 200 people were taken hostage, according to Israeli officials.

University spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason said in a statement that restoring full access to the campus is “imperative,” and that the demonstrators have delayed access of emergency vehicles.

“It was impossible to do so without law enforcement intervention,” he said. “These actions could have been avoided if the encampment participants heeded the many previous directives that were given by campus officials, fire marshals and law enforcement.”

By late Friday morning, protesters who were booked into Santa Cruz County Jail began to be released from the downtown facility.

By 11am, UAW members and supporters had set up food and water stations on tables outside the main jail, surrounded by yellow caution tape strung by jail officials. The Water Street vehicle entrance was also cordoned off.

By noon on Friday, most of the detainees booked into the Santa Cruz County Jail had been released. The rest were being held across town at the UCSC Westside Research Park.

At around 1pm, the premises near the back entrance of the research park on Natural Bridges Drive were filled with supporters waiting for detainees to be released. Various tents with medical supplies, food and water were erected, and one tent was blasting anti-police themed music, including hip hop group N.W.A’s song “F*ck Tha Police.”

Dozens of supporters surrounded the doors to the building, waiting for arrested protestors as they were released one by one. Every time someone walked out through the doors, the crowd erupted in cheers.

A student who did wish to be named because of legal concerns said she was forced to live with her friends after she was banned from campus. 

“I am really hoping that they can potentially overturn or give an exception for on-campus students to pack up their apartments,” she said.

Rebecca Gross, UCSC UAW-head, said that the UAW supports amnesty for protestors. Members of the UAW are facilitating legal help for 12 of those arrested.

“We also want them [protestors] to know that workers on this campus are very much invested in striking until amnesty is achieved for protestors,” Gross said.

To see video, visit youtu.be/VYMwToqlMIU


  1. Where are the details of the protesters’ demands and the administration’s response the the specific requests?

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  2. Good to see the students at Uncle Charlie’s Summer Camp are getting a genuine education –
    Stand up against genocide and the slaughtering and incineration of babies and ya get heavy handed police response with clubs and guns ….. excellent.

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  3. Supporting Gaza and rallying against the deaths of 35,000 Palestinians is one thing. But supporting Hamas is something else entirely. Their goal is to rid the world of Jewish people. I say this as a UCSC alumna who participated in anti-war protests during the Vietnam era. I can’t recall that we ever defaced university facilities with spray paint, nor did we block campus access.

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    • The George Floyd riots were orders of magnitude more violent & destructive than this, and they were fundamentally ANTI-WHITE.

      How did law enforcement respond?

      Amazingly enough, from the SCPD to the FBI — they all “took a knee” (i.e., they literally genuflected to anti-White violence) — even as the SCPD headquarters itself was vandalized!

      So far the pro-Palestine resistance is FAR FAR milder, and it’s characterized as fundamentally ANTI-JEWISH.

      And we see how law enforcement responds.

      Big mystery, isn’t it?

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