ATHENS — Students and others protesting Israel’s war in Gaza left the University of Georgia campus on Monday night, but vowed to return Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.

“Whose streets, our streets, this is not a retreat,” protesters chanted as they departed UGA’s Old College lawn a little before 8:45 p.m. after a lengthy day of demonstrations at the state’s flagship university.

Protesters gathered for a second time Monday afternoon, hours after campus police broke up an earlier protest and arrested several demonstrators for trespassing.

About 30 protesters met at The Arch, the storied entrance on the northern end of the campus, around 3 p.m., some of them chanting “Free free Palestine, long live Palestine.” They then marched to the Old College lawn, the site of the morning protest.

Within a couple hours, their numbers had swelled to perhaps 100 people, monitored by a handful of police officers. There were around 50 protesters gathered on the campus Monday night as the demonstration winded down.

Protesters said at least 16 people were arrested Monday morning for trespassing. UGA and the local sheriff’s office didn’t say how many were arrested, or how many were students, as of Monday night. There didn’t appear to be any additional arrests during the second round of protests.

At least two of the protesters who had been arrested at the earlier rally reappeared at the afternoon protest. Demonstrators greeted them with hugs and chants of “welcome back, welcome back.”

But Zeena Mohamed, one of the students who had been arrested and released, said she has been suspended by UGA, along with at least half a dozen other student protesters.

Mohamed said Students for Justice in Palestine, a student group on UGA’s campus, also had been suspended. The group, to which Mohamed belongs, has accused Israel of “genocide” in its war in Gaza against Hamas.

A UGA spokesperson wouldn’t immediately confirm or deny the suspensions to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter on Monday night.

But the AJC reporter reviewed a three-page letter Mohamed said she received electronically from UGA on Monday afternoon notifying her of the suspension. The letter cited several violations, including “reckless disruption or obstruction of teaching, research, administration or other University activities.”

Another protester told demonstrators Monday that she also had been suspended by UGA for participating in protests.

Athens Against Apartheid and Students for Justice of Palestine helped organize the afternoon protest, which included supporters of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Hundreds of students protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza have been arrested this month at colleges across the U.S., including over the weekend. Protesters were arrested on Emory University’s campus in Atlanta late last week, when demonstrations also took place at Kennesaw State University.

The protests are in response to Israel’s invasion of Gaza after Hamas attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7. Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.

At UGA, around two dozen young protesters gathered at the North Campus Quad early Monday, some setting up tents.

Campus police, backed up by Georgia State Patrol officers, led several protesters away in handcuffs about 90 minutes later.

“Disperse at this time or you will be arrested,” UGA police chief Jeffrey L. Clark told demonstrators at the morning protest. “Anyone who does not do so will be arrested for criminal trespass.”

By 9 a.m., the protesters had either been detained or dispersed. Tents, tables, signs, cases of bottled water and snacks also had been removed. By around 9:30 a.m., campus and state patrol officers had left the site of the protest.

In a statement Monday ahead of the morning protest, Students for Justice in Palestine said protesters “demand university solidarity, protection, and the disclosure and divestment of financial relationships with zionist organizations.”

Morning protesters held signs with the words “Palestine is our demand, No peace on stolen land” and “Fund communities, not cops.”

The morning protesters were met by at least a dozen UGA police and six state patrol officers. UGA police began detaining, one by one, protesters who had linked arms.

Protesters were handcuffed on the ground before being led away as others chanted “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest.”

In addition to the roughly two dozen morning protesters, about two dozen other people, many of them young, gathered to watch. Some of the onlookers yelled at police, supporting the protesters.

In a statement after the morning arrests and before the afternoon protest, UGA said it remains “firmly committed” to freedom of speech and expression but that it also has the right “to regulate the time, place and manner” of protests.

UGA said about 25 protesters early Monday began erecting tents and a barricade, blocking sidewalks and building entrances, and using amplified sound. It said campus regulations prohibit camping and disrupting university activities.

After “multiple” warnings that protesters would be charged with trespassing, UGA police “were left with no choice but to arrest those who refused to comply,” the university added in its statement.

A representative of the National Lawyers Guild, a progressive nonprofit, asked protesters for their names and dates of birth as police led protesters away. At least two other representatives were present, wearing vests that said “legal observer.”

Police walked protesters to police vans nearby. Protesters sat on a sidewalk, their hands in zip ties at that point, before being driven away.

Protesters in zip ties wait to be taken away in police vans after demonstrations Monday on the University of Georgia campus in Athens against Israel's war in Gaza.

Credit: Fletcher Page

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Credit: Fletcher Page

Athens Against Apartheid, a coalition of groups including UGA Students For Justice in Palestine and UGA Stop Cop City, circulated a petition last week demanding that UGA make a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people, protect pro-Palestine speech and activism on campus, and divest from companies aiding Israel’s war. More than 360 people had signed the petition as of early Monday night.

Monday’s protests at UGA came on the official last day of classes on campus, after most classes ended last week. Finals begin later this week, and commencement ceremonies are May 10.

Afternoon protesters gathered as other students stood at the landmark Arch in their graduation gowns getting their photos taken.

During the afternoon campus protest, one person placed a hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women, on the head of a statue of Abraham Baldwin. Baldwin, a Founding Father who signed the United States Constitution, founded UGA.

About 40,000 students, including 30,000 undergraduate students, are enrolled at the public state university.

Gov. Brian Kemp, a UGA graduate, has made it clear that disruptive demonstrations aren’t welcome in Georgia.

“We continue to send the message in this state that we’re going to keep you safe and not put up with this insanity,” Kemp said earlier this month, after protesters in other cities blocked traffic and set up encampments on campuses.

Elle Lewis, a spokesperson for Athens Against Apartheid, criticized Monday morning’s arrests.

“We obviously came back out, so we did not agree with it. It was a flagrant violation of student rights, a flagrant violation of free speech,” Lewis said.