Police forcefully dismantle encampment and disperse protesters at UCLA campus

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This article has been updated

Officers fully geared in riot gear dismantled a significant pro-Palestinian encampment on the UCLA premises early on Thursday, following an aggressive assault on student demonstrators by a counterprotest group. At the scene, over 200 individuals were apprehended by law enforcement, and most protesters were dispersed, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The “Palestine solidarity encampment” was erected a week ago, aligning with nationwide student demonstrations advocating for universities to divest from firms linked to Israel militarily and denouncing the suppression of student protesters nationwide.

A robust law enforcement presence comprised officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, and UC Police Department, according to numerous news outlets.

Authorities indicated no severe injuries, although the L.A. Times documented multiple instances of injured students needing medical attention amidst the evacuation of the encampment.

A protester is restrained by a police officer by their jacket to impede movement toward the encampment on May 2, 2024.
Credit: Brandon Morquecho / Daily Bruin Photo Editor

By late Wednesday night, a considerable number of students congregated within and near the encampment area. As per reports, students inside the encampment bolstered its defenses with “makeshift walls” in anticipation of a police intervention, with officers in riot gear assembling near the site.

Some students expressed willingness to be arrested or protect the encampment, while others foresaw the police operation after 1 a.m. Protesters, as reported by CalMatters, wore protective gear like hard helmets, goggles, and respirators while anticipating police action.

Subsequent to the declaration of an unlawful assembly at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, police presence steadily escalated, noted CBS News. Around 10:30 p.m., officers in riot gear approached one of the barricaded entry points to the encampment, with students chanting “Viva, viva Palestina,” signifying “Free, free Palestine” in Spanish.

Indications suggest police are advancing. Progress on breaching status remains unclear. pic.com/4e5FItSpYP

— Connor Sheets (@ConnorASheets) May 2, 2024

In recent times, numerous university students and faculty members have faced arrests nationwide for establishing comparable pro-Palestinian encampments.

Increasingly, faculty voices have criticized the dependence of campus administrators on law enforcement to disperse student protests. This trend has been observed at institutions like the University of Southern California, Columbia University, Cal Poly Humboldt, University of Texas Austin, Emory University, and several others.

“I found it disturbing that the decision to deploy armed riot police implied a potential risk to students. Essentially, the university failed to safeguard its students,” remarked Wolf Gruner, a tenured genocide studies professor, in a recent Los Angeles Public Press interview.

Faculty members have also united with student encampments, such as Graeme Blair, an associate professor of political science at UCLA and a supporter of Faculty for Justice in Palestine.

Communicating with the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student publication, Blair confirmed that “professors within the encampment ‘intend to be arrested alongside students advocating against the ongoing genocide in Palestine.’”

He further expressed, “I’m appalled that following the university’s failure to shield students from an anti-Palestinian mob, they have now endangered students by resorting to police intervention. Any harm to students tonight is the university’s responsibility.”

Blair’s statements referenced the violent encounters at the UCLA campus from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning when encampment students faced aggression from approximately 100 pro-Israel demonstrators.

The counterdemonstrators arrived on campus around 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday and swiftly began dismantling the encampment barricades, as relayed by the Los Angeles Times.

Violence escalated, with pro-Israel protesters hurling objects and fireworks toward the encampment. Physical altercations erupted when counterprotesters endeavored to breach the barricades. Some encampment residents claimed they were exposed to a substance resembling pepper spray. Individuals inside the encampment were treated for eye irritations, the Times reported.

Journalists from the Daily Bruin covering the incident were also subjected to assaults. A group of four student reporters faced verbal abuse, physical attacks, and pepper spray. At least one journalist received medical attention and has since been discharged.

According to several on-site reporters, law enforcement response to the violence was delayed, a situation denounced by local, state, and federal authorities.

Among the critics was Governor Gavin Newsom, who addressed the matter on Wednesday morning via X, previously known as Twitter: “I strongly condemn the violence at UCLA last night. It is imperative to understand that freedom of speech does not justify inciting violence, destruction, or disorder on campus. Those engaging in unlawful activities must be held accountable, including through legal prosecution, suspension, or expulsion.”

The situation began to de-escalate by 3:45 a.m.

Subsequent to the incidents on Wednesday, University of California President Michael Drake initiated an inquiry into UCLA’s handling of the violent protests.

Following the prior night’s violence, the president of the union representing UC’s non-senate faculty and librarians demanded UCLA Chancellor Gene Block’s resignation.

“We insist on Chancellor Gene Block’s immediate resignation due to his leadership shortcomings. Chancellor Block has neglected to engage protestors in meaningful discussions regarding their concerns, thus escalating tensions and failing to prevent the violence endured last night,” stated Katie Rodger, president of the University Council-AFT, in a shared statement with Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers.

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