UCLA student protesters brace for police crackdown on campus encampment

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At UCLA as police move in to dispurse protestors and dismantle the pro-Palestinian encampment.

Credit: Sergio Olmos / Twitter

Tensions remained high Wednesday night at UCLA after police issued an unlawful assembly order to clear students inside the “Palestine Solidarity Encampment” they set up a week ago, joining national student protests calling for universities to divest from companies with military ties to Israel and opposing the crackdown on student protesters nationwide.

The heavy police presence included a mix of officers from Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, and UC Police Department, according to multiple news sources.

Despite the order to disperse, hundreds of students remained gathered both inside and near the encampment hours into the night. Students inside the encampment reportedly prepared by fortifying the encampment with “makeshift walls” as police in riot gear began lining up near the encampment.

Some students were “willing to be arrested or defend the encampment,” per reporting by L.A. Times reporter Connor Sheets, with others expecting the police sweep to occur sometime after 1 a.m. Protesters were seen “wearing hard helmets, goggles, and respirators,” according to a Calmatters reporter, as they waited for police to take action.

Increasing numbers of police began arriving shortly after issuing the unlawful assembly order at 6 p.m. Wednesday, per reporting from CBS News. By around 10:30 p.m., police officers in riot gear began approaching one of the encampment’s barricaded entrances as a crowd of students chanted “Viva, viva Palestina,” or “Free, free Palestine” in Spanish, per a video posted on X by Sheets.

In recent weeks, hundreds of university students and faculty have been arrested across the nation for setting up similar “Palestine solidarity encampments” calling for their universities to divest and for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Increasingly, faculty have spoken up about the campus leaders’ reliance on police to disperse student protests. Such decisions have been made by campus leaders at USC, Columbia University, Cal Poly Humboldt, UT Austin, Emory University, and several other schools.

“What I found appalling is, to send armed riot police means you practically take into consideration that students might get harmed. So the university, again, kind of failed to protect its students,” said tenured professor of genocide studies Wolf Gruner in a recent LA Public Press interview.

Faculty have also joined some student encampments, such as Graeme Blair, UCLA associate professor of political science and a member of Faculty for Justice in Palestine.

Via text to the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student paper, Blair confirmed that “professors inside the encampment ‘plan to be arrested alongside students who have done nothing but talk about a genocide taking place in Palestine.’”

He also stated: “I’m disgusted that after the university failed to protect students simply standing up for causes they believe from an anti-Palestinian mob that tonight they have chosen to endanger students once again by calling in the police. Any harm on students tonight is on them.”

In his comment, Blair referred to the violent events that unfolded at the UCLA campus between Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning when students within the encampment were attacked by around 100 counterdemonstrators supporting Israel.

The counterprotesters arrived on the campus around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and within the hour began trying to tear down the barricades at the encampment, according to the Los Angeles Times

The violence then escalated within the next few hours, as the counterprotesters threw objects at the encampment and fireworks rained down. Fights also broke out as counterprotesters attempted to break the barricade. Students in the encampment also told the Times that they were hit by a substance they believed was pepper spray. Some people in the encampment were seen being treated for eye irritation, the Times reported.

During the altercation, journalists reporting for the Daily Bruin were also attacked. A group of four student reporters were verbally harassed, beaten, kicked, pepper sprayed. At least one of them went to the hospital and has since been released.

Police were slow to respond to the violence, according to multiple reporters at the site, which local, state, and federal leaders condemned.

One such person was Gov. Gavin Newsom, who commented on the events Wednesday morning via X: “I condemn the violence at UCLA last night. The law is clear: The right to free speech does not extend to inciting violence, vandalism, or lawlessness on campus. Those who engage in illegal behavior must be held accountable for their actions — including through criminal prosecution, suspension, or expulsion.”

The violence was eventually tempered by around 3:45 a.m.

Hours later, University of California President Michael Drake ordered an investigation into how UCLA handled the violent demonstrations.

Following Wednesday’s violence, the president of the union representing UC’s non-Senate faculty and librarians called for the resignation of UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

“We call for the immediate resignation of Chancellor Gene Block for his failure of leadership. Chancellor Block has refused to meet with protestors to discuss their interests; instead he has created an environment that has escalated tensions and failed to take meaningful action to prevent the violence that occurred last night,” said Katie Rodger, president of the University Council-AFT in a joint statement with Jeff Freitas, president of the statewide California Federation of Teachers.


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