Riot Police Clash with Pro-Palestine Protesters at UCLA

Hundreds of riot police dismantled a pro-Palestine encampment at UCLA, following violent clashes with pro-Israel counterdemonstrators that left over a dozen people injured. The confrontation is part of a broader wave of protests and confrontations on college campuses across the US related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ebenezer Mensah
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Riot Police Clash with Pro-Palestine Protesters at UCLA

Riot Police Clash with Pro-Palestine Protesters at UCLA

Hundreds of riot police descended on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus early Thursday morning to confront pro-Palestine protesters who had set up an encampment in the Royce Quad area. The police action followed violent clashes between the protesters and pro-Israel counterdemonstrators on Tuesday night, which left over a dozen people injured.

Why this matters: The escalation of violence on college campuses highlights the deepening divisions and strong emotions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with significant implications for free speech, public safety, and the role of police on campuses. As protests spread across the US, the handling of these events will have far-reaching consequences for social cohesion, academic freedom, and the ability of universities to balance competing interests.

The confrontation began around 3:15 a.m., about nine hours after the protesters were ordered to disperse when their gathering was declared an unlawful assembly. Police from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) advanced on the encampment, meeting heavy resistance as they dismantled barriers erected by the demonstrators.

By 4 a.m., officers had largely dismantled the eastern front of the encampment, and several protesters were seen being detained. However, hundreds remained steadfast, forming a human chain and facing off against an equally long line of police. Many protesters wore protective gear like face masks, gas masks, and helmets, anticipating a confrontation with police or counterprotesters.

The university and law enforcement have faced criticism for their handling of the situation. On Tuesday night, punches were thrown and fireworks were launched at the pro-Palestine encampment, leaving over 15 people hurt, including one hospitalization. Students accused police and security guards of retreating or failing to intervene for hours during the attack by masked counterprotesters using projectiles, fireworks, and chemical agents.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block stated that "a group of instigators" carried out the attack but did not provide further details. The Federated University Police Officers' Association (FUPOA) suggested the university was to blame for Tuesday's unrest.

In response to the violence, UC President Michael V. Drake said, "This morning, the University of California community woke up to shocking scenes from UCLA of a protest that turned violent overnight... The situation has been stabilized and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block has reiterated that, having declared the encampment unlawful yesterday, he will dismantle it at the appropriate time."

The LAPD released a statement saying,"Last night, the Los Angeles Police Department, along with several other state and local law-enforcement agencies, responded to the UCLA campus. UCLA requested mutual aid after reports of violent clashes between protesters. Once mutual aid resources were formed and coordinated, they separated the two groups. No arrests were made, no force was used, and no officers were injured."

The clashes at UCLA are part of a broader wave of protests and confrontations on college campuses across the United States related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On Tuesday evening, 280 people were arrested at Columbia University and City University of New York (CUNY) during pro-Palestine demonstrations. Further arrests occurred Wednesday evening at Fordham University in New York.

At Columbia, police used an armored vehicle with a bridging mechanism to gain entry to a building and arrest dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Protests and encampments have also been broken up at universities in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Oregon, Arizona, and Texas, with multiple arrests reported.

The nationwide protests have sparked controversy and drawn criticism from various quarters. New York Mayor Eric Adams faced backlash for blaming "outside agitators" for leading the demonstrations at Columbia and CUNY, citing the presence of a woman whose husband was allegedly convicted of terrorism. The woman, Nahla Al-Arian, denied the mayor's claims, stating that she was not on campus and was not among those arrested.

The group behind the Columbia encampment, Columbia University Apartheid Divest, defended its right to include people from outside the university in the global movement, calling the "outside agitator" label a "far-right smear." Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian American historian and professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia, said, "We are on the right side of history. Shame on our leaders, shame on our administrators"

Key Takeaways

  • Riot police dismantled a pro-Palestine encampment at UCLA, following violent clashes with pro-Israel counterdemonstrators.
  • Over 15 people were injured, including one hospitalized, in Tuesday's clashes, with students accusing police of inaction.
  • UCLA Chancellor Gene Block blamed "instigators" for the attack, while the police union suggested the university was responsible.
  • Nationwide, protests and arrests have occurred at universities, including Columbia, CUNY, and Fordham, over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Critics have accused authorities of mishandling the situation, with some labeling protesters as "outside agitators" and others defending their right to free speech.