Los Angeles police say 210 arrested during removal of anti-Israel encampment at UCLA

Student returns to campus hours after being arrested, vows pro-Palestinian protesters will keep ‘disrupting’ and ‘demanding divestment’ from Israel

Police clash with anti-Israel demonstrators on the UCLA campus, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP/Ethan Swope)
Police clash with anti-Israel demonstrators on the UCLA campus, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP/Ethan Swope)

LOS ANGELES — Police forcibly removed scores of defiant pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters at several colleges on Thursday, including taking down an anti-Israel encampment at UCLA in a jarring scene that underscored the heightened chaos that has erupted at universities this week.

In the pre-dawn hours, helmeted police swarmed a tent city set up at the University of California in Los Angeles, using flash bangs and riot gear to push through lines of protesters who linked arms in a futile attempt to forcibly resist their advance.

Los Angeles police said on social media that 210 people were arrested at UCLA, and hundreds of arrests were made at other universities overnight and on Thursday.

“I’m a student here, I’m an English major,” one UCLA protester told cameras as he was led away, his hands bound. “Please don’t fail us. Don’t fail us.”

Hours later, the student, who would only give his first name as Ryan, was back on campus and vowed he would not stop fighting.

“We will be back,” said Ryan, who was cited for unlawful assembly. “We will be disrupting. We will be demanding divestment.”

Students have rallied or set up tents at dozens of universities in recent days to protest Israel’s war in Gaza against Hamas, which was started by the terror group’s October 7 onslaught. Demonstrators have called on US President Joe Biden, who has supported Israel’s right to defend itself, to do more to stop the fighting in Gaza and demanded schools divest from companies that support Israel’s government.

Many of the schools, including Columbia University in New York City, have called in police to quell the protests for violating the schools’ policies.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrators watch police activity behind a makeshift barricade on the UCLA campus, May 1, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP/Jae C. Hong)

Biden broke his silence on the demonstrations on Thursday after the UCLA raid, saying Americans have the right to protest but not to unleash violence.

“Destroying property is not a peaceful protest,” he said at the White House. “It’s against the law. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancelling of classes and graduations – none of this is a peaceful protest.”

Biden, who is seeking re-election in November against Republican former President Donald Trump, has walked a careful line as he confronts criticism from both the right and the left over his Israel policy.

Violence on campus

At UCLA, police repeatedly urged demonstrators to clear the protest zone, which occupied a central plaza about the size of a football field, before they moved in.

Dozens of loud explosions were heard from stun grenades fired by police, while demonstrators, some carrying makeshift shields and umbrellas, chanted “push them back” and flashed bright lights in officers’ eyes.

Live TV footage showed officers taking down tents and tearing apart makeshift barricades.

Some of the protesters had been seen donning hard hats, goggles and respiratory masks in anticipation of the siege a day after the university declared the encampment unlawful.

By morning, the plaza was strewn with detritus from the destroyed encampment: tents, blankets, food containers, a Palestinian flag, an upturned helmet. Police remained on hand during the first half of the day as the area was cleared of debris.

In Portland, Oregon, police entered the Portland State University library on Thursday morning, where demonstrators had barricaded themselves since Monday. Several dozen protesters carrying makeshift shields ran out of the building and rushed into a phalanx of officers in riot gear, who arrested them.

Police made more arrests at the library on Thursday night as demonstrators attempted to retake it. A university spokesperson said it was a “very fluid situation.”

In New Hampshire, police arrested approximately 100 protesters in separate incidents at Dartmouth University and the University of New Hampshire overnight, breaking up encampments.

UCLA campus remains largely shuttered

UCLA had canceled classes for the day on Wednesday following violent clashes between the encampment’s occupants and a group of masked pro-Israeli counter-demonstrators who confronted them late Tuesday night.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, in a written statement, said that officials had allowed the encampment to remain on campus for several days as it was peaceful at first, but that the clashes with the pro-Israeli crowd clearly put students in harm’s way.

“It led to unsafe conditions on our campus and it damaged our ability to carry out our mission,” Block said of the encampment. “It needed to come to an end.”

Counter-protesters clash with pro-Palestinian protesters at a pro-Palestinian encampment set up on the campus of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), in Los Angeles on May 1, 2024. (Etienne Laurent / AFP)

Taylor Gee, a 30-year-old pro-Palestinian protester and UCLA law student, said the police operation on Thursday felt “especially galling” to many protesters given the slow police response a night earlier.

“For them to come out the next night to remove us from the encampment, it doesn’t make any sense, but it also makes all the sense in the world,” he said.

UCLA officials said the campus, with nearly 52,000 students, would remain shuttered except for limited operations on Thursday and Friday.

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