Mass Arrests and Tensions Mount as Pro-Palestinian Demonstrations Escalate on College Campuses

Police arrested 210 people at UCLA amid a tense standoff between pro-Palestinian protesters and law enforcement, part of a wider crackdown that saw hundreds taken into custody at other California universities. The protests, demanding university divestment from companies supporting Israel's occupation, have spread to over 40 campuses nationwide, resulting in over 2,000 arrests since mid-April.

Safak Costu
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Hundreds Arrested as Pro-Palestinian Protests Escalate at UCLA and Across California

Mass Arrests and Tensions Mount as Pro-Palestinian Demonstrations Escalate on College Campuses

In a dramatic escalation of pro-Palestinian demonstrations on college campuses, police arrested 210 people at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) early Thursday morning amid a tense standoff between protesters and law enforcement. The mass arrests at UCLA were part of a wider crackdown that saw hundreds more taken into custody at other universities across California.

Why this matters: The protests and subsequent arrests highlight the growing tensions between pro-Palestinian activists and authorities, with potential implications for free speech and academic freedom oncollege campuses. As the demonstrations continue to spread, they may also influence public opinion and policy decisions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The confrontation at UCLA began around 2:40 a.m. when California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Police Department officers in riot gear breached the perimeter of a pro-Palestinian encampment that had been set up on campus. Protesters resisted, using plywood barriers and makeshift shields, but authorities deployed flash-bang devices and less-than-lethal projectiles to disperse the crowd. Despite the show of force, hundreds of demonstrators remained steadfast, forming a human chain to face off against the advancing police lines.

The UCLA encampment, which protesters had refused to leave despite warnings of disciplinary action and criminal charges, is part of a series of college demonstrations that began in April. The protests are demanding universities divest from companies seen as supporting the war in Gaza and Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. The Gaza war, which began on October 7, has killed over 34,000 Palestinians according to the Gaza health ministry.

The forcible removal of the UCLA encampment is being described as one of the most violent episodes since the campus demonstrations began. "Where were you last night?" protesters chanted on Wednesday, criticizing the police and campus security for not intervening during an attack on the encampment the previous evening by masked assailants who deployed projectiles and chemical agents.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass condemned the violence, stating, "Every student deserves to be safe and live peacefully on their campus. Harassment, vandalism, and violence have no place at UCLA or anywhere in our city." However, protesters argue their actions are justified. "We have to challenge these systems of oppression so that we can free Gaza and free all peoples who are oppressed," said one UCLA senior participating in the demonstrations.

The protests have drawn national attention, with President Joe Biden speaking out from the White House. While defending the right to peaceful protest, Biden emphasized the need for order. "We're a civil society, and order must prevail,"he said, making clear that the demonstrations would not sway his Middle East policy and that he would not deploy the National Guard tocollege campuses.

The unrest has significantly disrupted campus life, leading UCLA to cancel Thursday and Friday classes. University operations are limited, with employees encouraged to work remotely. The protests have also drawn international media attention, with the law enforcement action at UCLA broadcast on Iranian state television, Qatar's Al Jazeera, and Israeli networks.

Demonstrations continue to spread, with the Associated Press tallying over 2,000 arrests at more than 40 campuses nationwide since mid-April, and the debate over the protests grows increasingly polarized. Israel has condemned the campus activism as anti-Semitic, while critics accuse Israel of weaponizing such allegations to silence opposition. With tensions running high and no resolution in sight, the academic year concludes in tumult for universities across California and beyond.

Key Takeaways

  • 210 people arrested at UCLA in a crackdown on pro-Palestinian protests.
  • Hundreds more arrested at other California universities in a wider crackdown.
  • Protests demand universities divest from companies supporting Israel's occupation.
  • President Biden defends peaceful protest, but emphasizes need for order.
  • Over 2,000 arrests at 40+ campuses nationwide since mid-April.