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Tensions Rise at U.N.C. Chapel Hill After Dozens of Pro-Palestinian Demonstrators Are Detained

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill turned chaotic on Tuesday, hours after dozens of students were detained for refusing to leave an encampment they had set up over the weekend outside Wilson Library on campus.

By the afternoon, several hundred students had broken through the barriers keeping them out of the encampment, erupting in chants of “Free Palestine” and calling on the university to divest from investments that support Israel.

The scene escalated when protesters replaced an American flag in the center of campus with a Palestinian one, and demonstrators reportedly threw water on law enforcement officers and school officials as they tried to restore the U.S. flag back onto the pole.

“It’s clear that the university has chosen its side,” said Sahad Mustafa, a 21-year-old senior who began to flee as officers approached the flagpole. “They are choosing to still support Israel regardless of what their students are saying. They are showing us that they are willing to use violence and willing to lie.”

School officials said 36 protesters had been detained after they were given until 6 a.m. on Tuesday to clear out from the encampment or face possible arrest, suspension or expulsion. Of those, 27 people, including 13 university students, were cited for trespassing and released. Six more, including three students, were booked on trespassing charges at the county jail.

On the other end of the quad on Tuesday afternoon, a handful of students held Israeli flags. Trevor Lan, a Jewish student who stood with the group, told The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., that the encampment and recent protests marked the first time he felt “threatened” on campus.

“They took down the U.S. flag,” Mr. Lan told the news outlet. “For those of you who didn’t care about Israel and didn’t care about the Jewish people, look at it now. This is what this evolves into.”

The clashes at U.N.C. Chapel Hill came as North Carolina was still mourning the death of four officers who were killed a day earlier trying to serve arrests warrants to a man in Charlotte, about two hours away, in what was one of the deadliest shootouts for American law enforcement in recent years. Four other officers were also wounded. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina had ordered all flags at half-staff to honor the slain officers.

On Tuesday, the lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson, criticized the U.N.C. Chapel Hill protesters and their actions as “nonsense” that “should never have happened to begin with.”

“Especially after what we saw last night in Charlotte, our police officers need to be treated with respect, and lawlessness needs to end,” said Mr. Robinson, a Republican who is running for North Carolina governor.

More than 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested on campuses across the country after a crackdown on demonstrators at Columbia University in New York this month spawned a wave of activism at universities.

Anna Betts contributed reporting.

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