Cal State LA chief: Anti-Israel protesters unwelcome on campus after building takeover

Spokesperson for university says demonstrators caused ‘significant damage’ when they occupied and trashed building while president was inside, though no arrests carried out

A barricade and graffiti left by anti-Israel protesters at the Student Services Building at California State University in Los Angeles, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
A barricade and graffiti left by anti-Israel protesters at the Student Services Building at California State University in Los Angeles, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LOS ANGELES — The president of California State University, Los Angeles, said demonstrators protesting against Israel over the war with Hamas in Gaza are no longer welcome on campus after some of them occupied and trashed a building while she was inside.

The takeover ended early Thursday without arrests, a school spokesperson said.

Protesters barricaded the multistory Student Services Building at 4 p.m. Wednesday with university President Berenecea Johnson Eanes and dozens of other employees inside, said spokesperson Erik Frost Hollins.

Most of the 58 employees got out by 6 p.m. except for a group of administrators who remained until after midnight to manage the situation. The group included Eanes, but Frost Hollins would not say whether the president interacted with the protesters.

“That falls under tactics that we are not discussing at this point,” the spokesperson said.

Most of the protesters left the building around 1:15 a.m. Thursday and returned to an encampment on the campus. A few remaining protesters left when university police ordered them out, Frost Hollins said.

A police officer walks past a wall left with graffiti by an anti-Israel protester at the California State University, Los Angeles, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations and encampments against Israel have roiled campuses across the US since the war in Gaza was started by Hamas’s October 7 attack, in which thousands of terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take over 251 hostages. Israel’s retaliatory offensive has affected a humanitarian catastrophe in the Strip where over a million Palestinians have been displaced and the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says over 37,000 have been killed, an unverifiable figure that doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Anti-Israel protesters in US universities have called on their institutions to boycott Israel. Some campus administrations have responded to unruliness — which has included instances of violence, vandalism and antisemitic harassment — by summoning law enforcement, leading to the arrest of over 3,000 students nationwide, according to the New York Times.

In a statement Thursday afternoon to the school community, CSULA President Eanes said she has engaged with protesters who have occupied the campus encampment for some 40 days.

“So long as the encampment remained non-violent, I was committed that the university would continue to talk,” the president wrote. But in the wake of the destruction and theft that occurred Wednesday, a line was crossed and “those in the encampment must leave.”

“I am saddened, and I am angry,” Eanes said. “Campus community: Know that we will recover from this, but also know that I am committed to doing everything we can to ensure this will never be allowed to repeat. I cannot and would not protect anyone who is directly identified as having participated in last night’s illegal activities from being held accountable.”

There were no arrests and no injuries were reported, but “assaults” were reported by three employees and one student, according to Eanes. Officials said those were a law enforcement matter.

The university, meanwhile, announced that all main campus classes and operations would be remote until further notice.

Images from the scene showed furniture blocking doorways from the inside, while the plaza out front was barricaded with a picnic table, umbrellas, a vending machine, and at least two overturned campus vehicles, one with a shattered windshield.

The interior and exterior of the building were graffitied with expletives about Zionism, calls to “end the genocide in Gaza,” and disparaging remarks about the university president.

“We don’t have an exact appraisal on it but there was damage to the exterior, the interior, equipment, materials, structure — it was significant damage,” Frost Hollins said.

The CSULA Gaza Solidarity Encampment, a group that has camped near the campus gym for about 40 days, sent an email indicating that members were staging a sit-in in the building, Hollins said.

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