close
close

UCLA: Police remove barricades at pro-Palestinian protest camp

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police have arrested more than 2,000 people during pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses across the United States in recent weeks, according to an Associated Press tally Thursday.

Demonstrations and arrests have occurred in almost every corner of the country. In the past 24 hours, they have drawn more attention at the University of California, Los Angeles, where chaotic scenes unfolded early Thursday as officers in riot gear charged into a crowd of protesters.

Police clash with pro-Palestinian protesters inside an encampment on the UCLA campus on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Police clash with pro-Palestinian protesters inside an encampment on the UCLA campus on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Hundreds of protesters at UCLA He defied orders to leave, some formed human chains as police fired stun grenades to break up the crowd.

At least 200 people were arrested, said Sgt. Alejandro Rubio of the California Highway Patrol, citing data from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Rubio said they were being booked into the county jail complex near downtown Los Angeles.

What to know about the student protests

Another 300 people voluntarily left during the hour-long standoff, some leaving the camp with their hands over their heads in a show of peaceful surrender, according to the university. Others fled as officers armed with batons pushed back the hordes that numbered more than 1,000 people.

Later Thursday morning, workers removed barricades and dismantled protesters’ fortified camp. Bulldozers picked up trash bags and tents. Royce Hall was covered in graffiti.

Tent camps of protesters who ask universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that say they support the war in gaza have spread across campuses across the country in a student movement like no other in this century.

the demonstrations started at Columbia University on April 17, with students asking the end of the war between Israel and Hamas, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the Ministry of Health in that area. Israel launched its offensive in Gaza after Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took approximately 250 hostages in an attack on southern Israel on October 7.

Police advance toward pro-Palestinian protesters at an encampment on the UCLA campus on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Police advance toward pro-Palestinian protesters at an encampment on the UCLA campus on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

A protester is escorted out of a pro-Palestinian encampment on the UCLA campus on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

A protester is escorted out of a pro-Palestinian encampment on the UCLA campus on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement Thursday that the camp had become “a focal point of serious violence as well as enormous disruption.” He said days of clashes between protesters and counterprotesters endangered people on campus, students were unable to get to class, buildings had to be locked down and classes were cancelled.

“This past week has been one of the most painful periods our UCLA community has ever experienced,” he said. “It has fractured our sense of togetherness and frayed our bonds of trust, and it will surely leave a scar on campus.”

Hundreds of police in riot gear stormed the UCLA campus early Thursday morning. Wearing face shields and protective vests, they extended their batons to separate themselves from the protesters, who wore helmets and gas masks and chanted: “You want peace. We want justice.”

For hours, officers warned over loudspeakers that arrests would be made if the crowd did not disperse. Protesters and police shoved and fought. Police helicopters flew overhead and the sound of stun grenades pierced the air. Police removed protesters’ helmets and goggles while making arrests.

Police methodically tore down the camp’s barricade of plywood, pallets, chain-link fences and trash bins, then tore down canopies and tents.

A police officer stands under a Palestinian flag after a raid on an encampment on the UCLA campus on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

A police officer stands under a Palestinian flag after a raid on an encampment on the UCLA campus on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The police presence and continued warnings contrasted with the scene Tuesday night, when counterprotesters attacked the pro-Palestinian camp. Campus administrators and police did not intervene or call for backup for hours. No one was arrested, but at least 15 protesters were injured.

AP correspondent Jennifer King reports that protests and arrests continue on college campuses across the United States.

The delay in response drew criticism from political leaders, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and officials promised an independent review.

Ariel Dardashti, a UCLA senior studying global studies and sociology, said no student should feel unsafe on campus.

“We shouldn’t get to the point where students are arrested,” Dardashti said on campus Thursday.

Dardashti said she can relate to the trauma Palestinians suffer.

“When my father was fleeing Iran, he prayed that his children would not have to face anti-Semitism,” Dardashti said. “We are afraid of having to run away again like our parents did.”

Iranian state television broadcast live footage of the police action at UCLA, as did Qatar’s pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera. Live footage from Los Angeles was also broadcast on Israeli television networks.

Israel has called the protests anti-semitic, while Israel’s critics say it uses such accusations to silence the opposition. Although some protesters have been caught on camera making anti-Semitic comments or violent threats, protest organizers, some of whom are Jewish, call it a peaceful movement to defend Palestinian rights and protest against the war.

President Joe Biden on Thursday defended the rights of students to protest peacefully but denounced the disorder of recent days.

California Republican leaders criticized university administrations for failing to protect Jewish students and allowing protests to devolve into “lawlessness and violence.” They called for the firing of leaders at UCLA and California Polytechnic State University, Humboldt, and pushed for a proposal that would cut salaries for university administrators.

“We have a lot of people at these universities making six-figure salaries and they stood by and did nothing,” Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher told reporters.

Meanwhile, protest encampments at schools across the United States were cleared by police (resulting in more arrests) or voluntarily closed.

An Illinois college professor said he suffered multiple broken ribs and a broken hand during a pro-Palestine protest Saturday at Washington University in St. Louis.

Bystander video shows the arrest of Steve Tamari, a history professor at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. He appears to be approaching to take video or photographs of detained protesters when several officers roughly tackle him to the ground.

In a post on the social platform X, Sandra Tamari said her husband needed surgery on his hand and has nine broken ribs.

Tamari said in a statement Thursday that it was “a small price to pay for Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza.” Campus police referred questions to the university’s communications department, which did not respond to a request for comment.

Elsewhere, University of Minnesota officials reached an agreement with protesters not to disrupt graduation ceremonies. Similar agreements have been concluded in Northwestern University in suburban ChicagoRutgers University in New Jersey and Brown University in Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, a group of Columbia University professors on Thursday condemned school leaders for asking police to remove protesters in what the group called a “horrible police attack on our students.” Officials break into a building on Tuesday, breaking up a demonstration that had paralyzed the school and arresting more than 100 people.

___

Watson reported from San Diego and Keller reported from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Associated Press journalists across the country contributed to this report, including Ethan Swope, Krysta Fauria, Leslie Ambriz, John Antczak, Christopher L. Keller, Lisa Baumann, Stefanie Dazio, Jae C. Hong, Colleen Long, Karen Matthews, Sarah Brumfield and Carolyn. Thompson, Philip Marcelo, Steve Karnowski and Eugene Johnson.