For Second Time in a Year, University of California-Irvine Students Require Police Escort From IDF-Related Event Due to Intense Protests
For the second time in a year, University of California-Irvine (UCI) students required a police escort from an IDF-related event due to intense protests both inside and outside the room where the program was being held, attendees told The Algemeiner on Friday.
On Wednesday, an event hosted by UCI’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) featuring IDF reservists was disrupted for about half an hour by some 40 protesters from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), some of whom wore t-shirts with the words “UC intifada” and chanted slogans advocating the destruction of Israel and violent “resistance,” in a demonstration that had “potential to turn violent,” according to the program organizer, Kevin Brum.
Brum –the founder, president and sole member of UCI’s SSI — told The Algemeiner that he contacted the UCI Police Department (UCIPD) when it seemed the situation “was getting overly heated.” He said UCIPD acted negligently, failing to be on scene as they were scheduled to be for the duration of the “high-risk program,” and only arrived some 10 minutes after protesters had voluntarily left the room and gathered in the narrow corridor immediately outside.
The police then escorted program attendees down that same hallway “in a single-file line, with us walking inches away from protesters,” Brum said. The ten attendees were led out of the building via an employee exit, a move that made some of them feel “like criminals being taken out the back way,” he noted.
“After not showing up when we first needed them, UCIPD took us out not by a safe alternate route or by clearing a path [through the corridor], but they decided to take us through a path of protesters who posed a high likelihood of violence,” Brum said, adding that the police escort nearly left without him.
Brum’s concerns about possible escalation were in large part due to the extreme demonstration at a prior program featuring the screening of a film about the Israeli army that took place almost exactly a year ago on campus, during which members of SJP were allegedly “aggressive, blocking exits and not allowing people to leave, as well as forcing people to run and hide in their rooms, fearing for their lives.” An investigation into that incident resulted in a written warning about protest behavior being issued to SJP — a warning that officially expired on March 29, 2017.
Brum’s program was arranged together with Reservists on Duty and the Gideon Project — two groups that bring Israeli soldiers to campuses — and featured five soldiers, at least two of which were Muslim, who came to UCI in order to counter the “apartheid wall” erected this week on campus by SJP.
“They were on the ground, every day this week, standing in front of the wall, arguing with SJP and disproving the various claims made on the panels [of the wall],” Brum said. On Wednesday night, SSI organized a formal question-and-answer session so that interested students could engage the soldiers in further discussion.
Brum said it was expected that SJP members would show up in protest given last year’s incident, and that Edgar Dormitorio — the university’s assistant vice chancellor and chief of staff of student affairs — was on hand at the event to try and maintain order. When the SJP group members arrived about an hour into the program, Brum told them they were welcome to attend if they promised not to disrupt. “They nodded their heads in agreement, so I let them in,” he said.
Almost immediately, SJP members began interrupting those asking questions and the answers of the soldiers, according to Brum. Soon, as one can see in footage of the incident posted online by a former UCI professor, the dozens of protesters began chanting, making it impossible for the program to continue.
Slogans shouted included “Israel, Israel what do you say, how many kids have you killed today?” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” In the footage, one woman — who Brum identified as a former president of SJP — appears to be orchestrating the protest. She seemed to lead the chants and direct comments at the soldiers — at one point, she yelled, “These people are occupiers, they’re colonizers; you should not be allowed on our f–ing campus!” — and then seemed to signal the other protesters to leave the room.
SSI has put out a statement demanding that UCI take action and suspend SJP for “spread[ing] hate and violence and terroriz[ing] the academic community.”
Ilan Sinelnikov, the founder of the national SSI movement, posted a “Call of Duty” on Facebook, asking students affiliated with his organization to call and complain to the office of the vice chancellor of student affairs and “make the phone ring non stop until the offices close today.”
“Fool me once shame on you, full me twice shame on me — we won’t let SJP and the university to drag us and fool us twice getting away without being held accountable for their actions [sic],” he wrote.
UCI representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Watch footage of the protest below: