Updated May 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Police start dismantling pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA after tense standoff

Police wearing dark helmets face off with pro-Palestinian protesters at UCLA.

Police face off with pro-Palestinian protesters after officers breached their encampment at UCLA on May 2. Photo: Etienne Laurent/AFP via Getty Images

More than 132 people were arrested at a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a tense altercation that stretched into the early morning hours Thursday.

Why it matters: It's the latest in a series of escalations at pro-Palestinian protests that have swept college campuses across the country.

  • Most protesters left the encampment on their own, said California Highway Patrol Officer Alec Pereyda.

The latest: The encampment was being cleaned up on Thursday morning as some protesters remained on the scene.

State of play: Police at the Los Angeles campus had begun tearing apart protesters' fortifications, made of plywood, metal fences, and pallets, by Thursday morning, per AP.

  • Before officers started to move in, video from the scene showed some with zip ties and others wearing riot helmets, as campus police told protesters over a loud speaker Wednesday evening to leave the area or potentially face arrest.
  • UCLA told students that classes on Thursday and Friday would be remote-only, and warned that anyone who remained in the encampment could "face sanctions," including interim suspension "that could lead to dismissal."
A line of police officers in riot gear faces off against a line of protesters, some wearing helmets and gas masks.
Police face off with pro-Palestinian protesters after destroying part of their encampment at UCLA early on May 2. Photo: Etienne Laurent/AFP via Getty Images

Catch up quick: Officers had entered the campus earlier in the day after reports of "multiple acts of violence," the Los Angeles Police Department said.

  • UCLA president Michael Drake in an emailed statement said 15 people were injured and one of these was hospitalized after the protest "turned violent."
  • Drake said he has ordered "an independent external review of both UCLA's planning and actions, and the effectiveness of the mutual aid response."

One Pro-Palestinian group wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday that pro-Israel protesters were "shooting fireworks, teargas, pepper spray, and more at encampment students."

  • Videos on social media appeared to show pro-Israel protesters shooting fireworks into the pro-Palestinian encampment.
  • "Horrific acts of violence occurred at the encampment tonight and we immediately called law enforcement for mutual aid support," Mary Osako, vice chancellor for UCLA Strategic Communications, told the Daily Bruin.
  • UCLA canceled all classes on Wednesday.

What they're saying: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) condemned the violence at UCLA in a statement released Wednesday.

  • "The right to free speech does not extend to inciting violence, vandalism, or lawlessness on campus," Newsom said.
  • "Those who engage in illegal behavior must be held accountable for their actions — including through criminal prosecution, suspension, or expulsion," he added.

Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday that pro-Israel protesters — the majority of which were not UCLA students — had been "incessantly verbally and physically harassing us" for the past six days.

  • Fighting also broke out between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel protesters on Monday night after the latter attempted to enter the encampment, the New York Times reported.
  • UCLA on Tuesday declared the pro-Palestinian encampment unlawful, warning students that they could face expulsion or suspension, the Daily Bruin reported.
  • "UCLA supports peaceful protest, but not activism that harms our ability to carry out our academic mission and makes people in our community feel bullied, threatened and afraid," Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement Tuesday.

The big picture: As the protests have increased in size and intensity, pro-Palestinian protesters have faced a growing crackdown from some school administrations.

  • At Columbia University, the epicenter of the protest movement, New York police arrested scores of protesters Tuesday night and cleared a building where protesters had barricaded themselves.
  • Yet as some universities have tried to use force to dispel protesters, others have tried to establish ground rules for the demonstrations.

Go deeper: Mapped: Where pro-Palestinian student protesters have been arrested

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest developments at UCLA.

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