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Police Arrest Pro-Palestinian Protesters Occupying Abandoned UC Berkeley Building

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Barricades and flags surround Anna Head Alumnae Hall in Berkeley on May 16, 2024. The building is an abandoned UC Berkeley building near People’s Park, which pro-Palestinian activists occupy. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Police arrested 12 protesters occupying an abandoned UC Berkeley building on Thursday night in a reportedly violent confrontation, according to the university.

Only one of those arrested was an enrolled student, UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said. All face charges, including burglary, vandalism and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Some protesters swung crowbars at University of California Police Department officers who were protected from injury by helmets, Mogulof said. Protesters had blocked entrances to Anna Head Alumnae Hall with plywood assembled into a makeshift barricade.

“UCPD is investigating and reviewing video to see if they can ID those who attacked the officers, so more charges may be pending,” Mogulof said in a statement.

The arrests came after an estimated 60 pro-Palestinian protesters, including some students, on Wednesday afternoon first occupied Anna Head Alumnae Hall, a historic site near People’s Park that was built in 1927 and acquired by UC Berkeley in 1964. A sprawling encampment at UC Berkeley urging university officials to divest in companies supporting Israel had just voluntarily disassembled the day before. About a dozen tents sat on the boarded-up, dilapidated hall’s lawn as of Thursday afternoon.

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More than 20 law enforcement agencies provided officers on Thursday night, including UCPD, the California Highway Patrol and the San Francisco Police Department. People outside the building on its lawn were allowed to disperse.

Video on the Instagram page @PeoplesParkBerkeley showed dozens of protesters arm-in-arm, standing at a police barricade, facing the officers, chanting “Free, free Palestine!” and a chair being thrown at officers. The protesters estimated 50–60 officers at the scene.

According to Mogulof, the occupation was not initiated by the coalition that the university agreed with Tuesday to end the weeks-long encampment on campus.

Protesters who took the building said 18% of the university’s $32 billion California endowment is “invested in assets that support Israeli occupation.”

Photos of graffiti inside the building equating Zionism to Nazism and the Star of David to a swastika were shared online by the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, which said it was “deeply disturbed.”

Protesters had also scrawled graffiti on the outside reading “Free Gaza” and “Avenge Al Shifa,” referring to Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, whose destruction significantly reduced the effectiveness of the region’s ailing health system, according to the World Health Organization.

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