Israel-Gaza protests: Cal Poly Humboldt closes campus

Officials shut down the campus of Cal Poly Humboldt on Monday night after masked pro-Palestinian protesters occupied an administrative building and barricaded the entrance as Gaza-related demonstrations roiled campuses across the nation.

Law enforcement officers wearing helmets and riot shields descended on the public university in Arcata, in rural Northern California, after demonstrators set up tents inside Siemens Hall and erected a banner that said, “STOP THE GENOCIDE.”

“Free, Free Palestine,” supporters chanted outside the building. “Long Live Resistance!”

Protests have flared on university campuses across the nation after more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Columbia University were arrested last week.

At Columbia, in-person classes were canceled Monday and the president asked students to stay home. At Yale, at least 60 protesters who camped at Beinecke Plaza were arrested after the university said they refused a final request to leave voluntarily.

At UC Berkeley, students set up a Gaza solidarity encampment at Sproul Plaza — the historic hub of the campus free speech movement — demanding that UC divest from the Israel-Hamas war.

Tensions flared quickly at Cal Poly Humboldt.

About 7:45 p.m., an officer told dispatchers that about 100 protesters remained near the building and police had attempted to take students into custody, but the crowd pulled them back, according to a report from Lost Coast Outpost. Another officer called for a pepper ball launcher.

By 8:30 pm, Cal Poly Humboldt issued an emergency alert warning that the campus was closed through Wednesday “for the safety of the campus community.” It advised students and faculty to “avoid the area of the building, as it is a dangerous and volatile situation.”

“The University is deeply concerned about the safety of the protesters who have barricaded themselves inside the building,” Cal Poly Humboldt said. “The University is urgently asking that the protesters listen to directives from law enforcement that have responded and to peacefully leave the building.”

As night fell, protesters outside the building clapped and chanted, “Free Palestine” and “Cops go home!”

Inside the building, a masked protester wearing black held up a sign that read: “HELP US PLEASE. THEY ARE GOING TO ATTACK.”

Protesters inside also held signs that urged supporters outside to resist law enforcement: “There are more of u than them” and “PUSH THEM OUT!”

Around 11 p.m., law enforcement officers left the front of Siemens Hall, according to Lost Coast Outpost.

Buildings were locked down Tuesday, and in-person classes were canceled. Students were advised to check in with their instructors or supervisors for instructions on remote classes.

According to Humboldt for Palestine, the protesters are demanding that Cal Poly Humboldt disclose all holdings and collaborations with Israel, cut all ties with Israeli universities and drop all “charges and attacks” on student organizers. They are also calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

“Students are requesting support as follows: Bodies to join them in the occupation of Siemens hall,” Humboldt for Palestine said in a statement on Instagram. The activist group urged students and faculty to call on the university for a de-escalation: “Demand these students are allowed to express their first amendment rights!”

At New York University, an encampment set up by students swelled to hundreds of protesters throughout the day Monday. The school said it warned the crowd to leave, then called in the police after the scene became disorderly and the university said it learned of reports of “intimidating chants and several antisemitic incidents.” Shortly after 8:30 p.m., officers began making arrests, the AP reported.