Hundreds of students have been arrested across universities in the United States, with scuffles reported between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators at UCLA, as rallies for a ceasefire in Gaza and divestment from companies linked to Israel spread across US campuses.

The pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of California at Los Angeles has expanded in recent days, but counter-protesters have also become increasingly vocal and visible.

On Sunday, the mood turned ugly when some demonstrators broke through a barrier that had been set up to separate the two factions, according to Mary Osako, UCLA’s vice chancellor for strategic communications.

People from both sides then pushed and shoved each other, shouting slogans and insults and in some cases trading punches. Campus police armed with batons eventually separated the sparring groups.

Osako said the university was “heartbroken” about the violence and had introduced additional security measures.

“As an institution of higher education, we stand firmly for the idea that even when we disagree, we must still engage respectfully and recognize one another’s humanity,” she said in a statement. “We are dismayed that certain individuals instead chose to jeopardize the physical safety of the community.”

While the Los Angeles police were not called in at UCLA and no arrests were made, officers in other parts of the country were deployed to campuses on Saturday, with some using chemical irritants and Tasers to disperse the students, as the protests spread.

In Boston, police detained about 100 people while clearing a protest camp at Northeastern University.

In a statement on X, Northeastern said the area on campus where the protests were held was now “fully secured” and “all campus operations have returned to normal” –

Al Jazeera