Over 200 People Arrested as Police Take Down UCLA Pro-Gaza Camp

May 3, 2024
LAPD and California Highway Patrol officers clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of California, Los Angeles, moving demonstrators out of a campus encampment.

By Matthew Ormseth, Connor Sheets, Ruben Vives, Melissa Gomez, Jack Dolan, Caroline Petrow-Cohen, Richard Winton, Hannah Fry and Rebecca Ellis

Source Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — More than 200 people were arrested Thursday morning as police moved into the pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA, dismantling tents and pushing out protesters in a clash that lasted hours.

The operation capped two days of upheaval that began when the University of California, Los Angeles declared the encampment “unlawful” and continued when a group of pro-Israeli counterprotesters attacked the camp Tuesday night, with police taking hours to stop the violence.

Early Thursday morning, officers wearing body armor, helmets and face shields methodically pulled apart the barricade as protesters tried to hold together the assemblage of plywood and metal fencing. Police launched flares that arced over the encampment, igniting with piercing blasts, and smoke filled the air from fire extinguishers that demonstrators sprayed at police. At least one officer is seen on video shooting rubber bullets into the crowd.

Hours later, as police continued to move people out of the area, trash was seen strewn across the lawn. Tents were upended, and nearby buildings had been spray-painted with words in support of Gaza. Bulldozers rolled onto the campus to clean up the debris. Crews placed tents, chairs, food and other supplies into large trash bins.

There were several fronts to law enforcement’s predawn operation, with police using flash-bang devices that echoed across campus and disoriented the crowd.

Other officers watched from the high windows of Royce Hall, infuriating protesters who shone lights in their eyes and challenged them to come down.

A man was struck in the chest with a rubber bullet after California Highway Patrol officers told protesters to stop throwing boards and other objects at them. It is not clear whether the man was throwing anything or how many others were injured.

Police moved protesters out of Royce Hall after a series of tense scuffles. Some appeared to leave the scene on their own, but many were arrested. Los Angeles Police Department officials said 209 people were taken into custody. Many were booked on suspicion of failing to disperse, a misdemeanor, a law enforcement source told the Los Angeles Times.

UCLA has moved all classes online for the rest of the week in the wake of the unrest.

It is not clear how many of those arrested are UCLA students. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Five Occidental College students were taken into custody at UCLA, according to Matthew Vickers, a member of the Occidental chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

By midmorning, students, university staff and other protesters had begun trickling out of the jail in downtown Los Angeles, carrying plastic bags filled with their belongings and yellow citations.

As they left the jail one by one, they were greeted by cheers from a swarm of students and legal advocates across the street. Many chanted, “Free Palestine,” as they emerged from the building.

Ella, a UCLA sophomore who declined to give her last name, said it had been an exhausting and disappointing night.

“It’s nothing compared to what the kids in Gaza are going through,” she said.

Some said they planned to return to the UCLA campus Thursday evening.

“We’re definitely not done,” said one woman, carrying a carton of orange juice and pumping her fist as she walked out. “I’ve never felt more proud of myself.”

Yaas Farzanefar, a 23-year-old UC Berkeley alum, said she watched many faculty members get arrested first — including a neurogenetics professor — followed by her and her friend.

“They used a lot of rubber bullets at close range,” Farzanefar said. “The students just had umbrellas.”

President Joe Biden on Thursday addressed the ongoing protests on college campuses, saying that while he understands Americans have strong feelings, “it doesn’t mean that anything goes.”

“Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations — none of this is peaceful protest,” Biden said. “Dissent is essential to democracy, but dissent must never lead to disorder or to denying the rights of others so students can finish the semester and their college education.”

He reiterated that discrimination should never be tolerated.

“There is no place for hate speech or violence of any kind, whether it’s antisemitism, Islamophobia or discrimination against Arab Americans or Palestinian Americans. It’s simply wrong,” he said.

Early in the police operation about 15 LAPD officers entered through a makeshift barricade near the school’s Tongva steps around 1:30 a.m. before protesters pushed them back, according to a UCLA student who witnessed the incident.

The student, who declined to be named, said the demonstrators who had planned to stay were prepared to be arrested.

“The people who have been here consistently are sleep-deprived, but people here are ready to defend the camp,” she said.

UCLA police repeatedly announced over loudspeakers that protesters should clear the area “immediately” and that those who failed to do so would be subject to arrest.

In recent weeks, UCLA, like other universities across the country, has emerged as a hotbed of pro-Palestinian activism.

Students, faculty and staff have erected makeshift camps and demanded an end to Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip and that their universities divest from companies that sell weapons or services to Israel.

Citing “sufficient confusion” surrounding the events, UC President Michael V. Drake said he was ordering an independent review of the university’s actions and the response by law enforcement.

UCLA faculty on Wednesday circulated a letter with about 360 signatures to Chancellor Gene Block demanding no police or disciplinary actions be taken against students.

As police began arriving in significant numbers early Wednesday evening, students lined up arm in arm in an effort to prevent law enforcement from reaching the encampment.

What followed was hours of stalemate, with hundreds of other protesters showing up and packing the courtyard stairs between the tent encampment and most of the police officers.

A small number of pro-Israeli activists showed up carrying a large flag, but they were vastly outnumbered and there was no violence.

Behind the plywood barricades of the encampment, the mood was anxious but not panicked. People were handing out respirators, masks and buckets to fill with water if needed to flush tear gas from eyes.

A woman handing out cookies, grapes and granola bars to protesters said, “It’s the revolution. You gotta eat.”

Meanwhile, in the road across from the encampment, dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters flowed into the driving lanes in front of Dickson Plaza chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Matt Barreto, a professor of Chicano studies and political science, stood under a blue-and-gold banner that read “UCLA Faculty and Staff, We Stand with Our Students.”

Barreto said he was one of about 30 faculty and staff members who were in the encampment and willing to be arrested alongside students.

“Our job is to stand up for their First Amendment rights, their rights on their own campus. We’re not trying to speak for the students,” he said. “We’re just here to support them and make sure no harm comes to them, especially after last night.”

“We’re going to stand here all night holding this banner,” he added.

Los Angeles Times staff writers Summer Lin and Ashley Ahn and Times staff photographer Jason Armond contributed to this report.


©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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