UAW chief slams mass arrests of pro-Palestinian protesters on college campuses

United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain lambasted the mass arrests of pro-Palestinian protesters on college campuses across the country, while emphasizing the union’s call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

“The UAW will never support the mass arrest or intimidation of those exercising their right to protest, strike, or speak out against injustice,” Fain wrote Wednesday on the social platform X. “Our union has been calling for a ceasefire for six months. This war is wrong, and this response against students and academic workers, many of them UAW members, is wrong.”

Hundreds of students and faculty members have been arrested over the past two weeks as pro-Palestinian protests roil college campuses nationwide. Demonstrators have taken to university yards and streets and started encampments to protest Israel’s wartime campaign in Gaza and call for a halt in U.S. aid to Israel.

Tensions spiked in New York and California on Tuesday night, resulting in the arrest of hundreds of demonstrators.

The New York Police Department on Tuesday went through a second-story window of a building at Columbia that was seized by demonstrators. Police cleared out the protesters, and videos quickly circulated on social media showing the arrests at Columbia, which has served as ground zero for the mass college protests that have quickly spread across the country.

New York Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday confirmed around 300 people were arrested.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, counter-protesters clashed with pro-Palestinian demonstrators when they attempted to dismantle the encampment on that campus. Los Angeles Police Department officers responded, but it was not immediately clear how many arrests were made and whether there were any injuries.

The leadership at UAW 4811,  the union chapter representing postdoctoral scholars and researchers of the University of California campuses, voted on Wednesday to hold a strike authorization vote as early as next week should the “circumstances justify.”

“Should the university decide to curtail the right to participate in protected, concerted activity; discriminate against union members or political viewpoints; and create or allow threats to members’ health and safety, among others, UAW 4811 members will take any and all actions necessary to enforce our rights,” UAW 4811 wrote in a statement.

Fain on Wednesday said the UAW is calling for the release of students and employees.

“And If you can’t take the outcry, stop supporting this war,” Fain added.

The UAW backed a long-term cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in December. The war has lasted nearly seven months since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks against southern Israel, during which the militant group killed about 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials.

—Updated at 5:04 p.m.

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