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Police Push Protesters Off a U.Va. Lawn and Arrest 25

The police arrested at least 25 pro-Palestinian protesters on Saturday at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville after aggressively clearing demonstrators off a university lawn and at one point using chemical irritants on dozens of people.

Like hundreds of students, faculty and staff across the country, students in Charlottesville protested this week in the heart of their campus, calling for the university to divest from Israel, weapons manufacturers and companies with ties to Israeli institutions, and to pledge to protect students’ right to peacefully protest. Tents were set up Friday, but cleared the next day.

In a news release, the university said the protesters had violated school policy on Friday by setting up tents on the lawn and by using megaphones. But the encampment was not forcibly removed then, the statement read, “given continued peaceful behavior and the presence of young children at the demonstration site, and due to heavy rain Friday night.”

Jim Ryan, the university president, wrote in a letter to the campus, “I sincerely wish it were otherwise, but this repeated and intentional refusal to comply with reasonable rules intended to secure the safety, operations and rights of the entire university community left us with no other choice than to uphold the neutral application and enforcement of those rules.”

By Saturday afternoon, protesters were met with police officers in riot gear. At one point, the police used chemical irritants against the crowd to get people to disperse.

The university said it was not immediately clear how many of the 25 who were arrested were affiliated with the school. All were charged with trespassing, according to a police official.

“Shame on you, shame on you!” chanted a crowd of hundreds of students and Charlottesville locals as a combined force of dozens of officers from at least three law enforcement agencies pushed them into the street in front of the university’s Rotunda building.

“This is absolutely obscene,” said Colden Dorfman, a third-year student majoring in computer science, who faced down the cordon as the police sprayed chemical irritants. “This is insanity. Everyone came here with peaceful intentions. I’m ashamed that this is what our police force is being used for.”

Some protesters and their supporters directly questioned the magnitude of the police response, particularly compared with the school’s response in 2017 to hundreds of white nationalists marching on campus with torches.

“What did you do when the K.K.K. came to town?” protesters could be heard yelling, as the police moved to push them into University Avenue, which had been blocked off to traffic.

Even as it began to rain, hundreds of people remained for hours before dispersing. Some people headed to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, where a new protest was forming.

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