Supporters of Israel use the sound of crying babies to ridicule the UCLA student encampment

Pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA faces harassment and intimidation by pro-Israel counterdemonstrators, including verbal abuse and physical attacks. Police eventually dismantle the encampment, leading to scuffles and arrests, amid ongoing tensions between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups on campus.

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Hadeel Hashem
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Pro-Palestinian Encampment at UCLA Faces Harassment and Violence

Pro-Palestinian Encampment at UCLA Faces Harassment and Violence

A pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has been subjected to harassment and intimidation by pro-Israel counter-demonstrators. The encampment, set up on Dickson Court on April 25, 2024, is demanding divestment from Israel and an end to the country's military actions in Gaza. Campers report that pro-Israel groups have been using megaphones to shout racist, homophobic, and anti-Islamic slurs at them, they also played the sound of babies crying to mock the UCLA student encampment .

Why this matters: The escalation of violence and harassment at UCLA highlights the growing tensions between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups on college, protests, updates campuses, which can have far-reaching implications for free speech and student safety. As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be a divisive issue, universities must navigate the challenge of protecting students' rights while ensuring a safe and inclusive learning environment.

In addition to the verbal harassment, counterdemonstrators have set up a giant video screen near the camp, playing videos of Hamas militants. They are also broadcasting loud, disturbing sounds late into the night to disrupt the campers' sleep, including an eagle screeching, a child crying, and a Hebrew rendition of "Baby Shark" on repeat.

The situation escalated on Tuesday night when a large, mostly male crowd of masked counterdemonstrators tried to break into the encampment. They ripped down barriers, sprayed bear mace, ignited stink bombs, and tossed fireworks near the camp perimeter. Green lasers were aimed at campers' faces, prompting shouts of "Shield your eyes!" Kaia Shah, a 23-year-old postgraduate researcher and spokesperson for the encampment, described the violence as "terrifying chaos."

The university's response to the violence was slow, with a spokesperson for Gov. Gavin Newsom's office calling it "unacceptable." Despite the harassment and attacks, the pro-Palestinian protesters have vowed to remain at the encampment until their demands are met. Faculty members and local musicians have shown their support by donating supplies and playing music to boost morale.

"It's still an emotional heavy space, but it's also a very open, welcoming, and loving space," said Marie, a 28-year-old graduate student. "Unfortunately, we experience the harassment and the terrorizing at night, which can be really upsetting." Mona, a third-year student, added, "The outside aggressors have been working hard to create a harsh environment and make us feel unsafe."

On May 2, 2024, police dismantled the encampment after hundreds of protesters defied orders to leave. The previous night, dueling groups of protesters clashed, leading to the cancellation of classes at UCLA. Police removed barricades and began dismantling the encampment early Thursday morning, after hours of threatening arrests over loudspeakers. Over 1,000 people had gathered on campus in support of the protesters.

Scuffles broke out between protesters and police, with some demonstrators being detained with their hands bound by zip ties. The crowd chanted "Where were you last night?" at the officers, referencing the delayed response to the counter-protester attack on the encampment the previous evening. Similar pro-Palestinian encampments at Dartmouth College and Portland State University were also dismantled by police, with multiple arrests made.

The events at UCLA highlight the ongoing tensions between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups on college campuses across the United States. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be a divisive issue, and universities face the challenge of protecting free speech while ensuring the safety and well-being of all students. Rebecca Husaini, chief of staff for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, emphasized,"The community needs to feel the police are protecting them, not enabling others to harm them."

Key Takeaways

  • Pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA faces harassment and intimidation from pro-Israel counterdemonstrators.
  • Counterdemonstrators use megaphones to shout racist, homophobic, and anti-Islamic slurs and disrupt campers' sleep.
  • Violence escalates with masked counterdemonstrators trying to break into the encampment, using bear mace and fireworks.
  • University response is slow, but faculty and local musicians show support for the pro-Palestinian protesters.
  • Police eventually dismantle the encampment, leading to scuffles and arrests, highlighting ongoing campus tensions.