newsSchools & Higher Education

Police arrest more than 200 at UCLA, clear student tent encampment

The scene at the University of California in Los Angeles rivaled the clearing of Columbia University's Hamilton Hall in New York City earlier in the week.

A pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel student tent encampment, looking towards Powell Library from Royce Hall, at the University of California, Los Angeles, April 30, 2024. Credit: Lurking and Leering Lisa via Wikimedia Commons.
A pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel student tent encampment, looking towards Powell Library from Royce Hall, at the University of California, Los Angeles, April 30, 2024. Credit: Lurking and Leering Lisa via Wikimedia Commons.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, police broke down the makeshift tent encampment that anti-Israel students made on the University of California, Los Angeles campus and arrested more than 200 people.

Many were booked for allegedly failing to disperse—a misdemeanor—a police source told The Los Angeles Times.

“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,” said Karen Bass, the mayor of Los Angeles.

“My office will continue to coordinate closely with local and state law enforcement, area universities and community leaders to keep campuses safe and peaceful,” she added.

Protesters at other schools included “agitators” who are not students. It is not clear how many of those arrested at UCLA are students at the public school, the Times reported.

The dramatic scene at UCLA echoed the clearing of Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall in New York City on Tuesday night. Police officers clad in body armor, helmets and face shields “methodically pulled apart the barricade as protesters tried to hold together the assemblage of plywood and metal fencing,” the Times reported.

“Police launched flares that arced over the encampment, igniting with piercing blasts, and smoke filled the air from fire extinguishers that demonstrators sprayed at police,” the paper added.

At least one officer shot rubber bullets into the crowd, and a man was struck in the chest after California Highway Patrol officers told protesters to stop throwing objects at them, per the Times.

Unlike on other campuses, pro-Israel counter-protesters clashed with anti-Israel protesters at UCLA.

On Tuesday night, about 200 counter-protesters “threw traffic cones, released pepper spray and tore down barriers,” according to CBS News. Fifteen protesters were injured.

‘We are appalled at the violence’

The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles promptly distanced itself from the actions of the pro-Israel counter-protesters.

“We are appalled at the violence that took place on the campus of UCLA last night,” it stated on Wednesday. “The abhorrent actions of a few counter-protestors last night do not represent the Jewish community or our values.”

Hours after the clash, UCLA declared the encampment was “unlawful and violates university policy,” warning students that if they did not leave they would face arrest, as well as suspension or expulsion.

On Wednesday, following the clash, UCLA canceled all in-person classes. Classes will be held online for the remainder of the week.

The university library will not reopen until Monday, and UCLA’s historic Royce Hall, which was vandalized by anti-Israel activists, will remain closed through Friday, the school announced.

Although more than 40 colleges nationwide saw tent encampments spring up on campus, where protesters harassed Jewish students and engaged in the violent takeover of school facilities, U.S. President Joe Biden was slow to condemn the violence.

His silence drew criticism from Republicans, including former President Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). Remarks the president made on April 22 in which he condemned antisemitism but also “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians” was widely considered tone-deaf to the threats faced by Jewish students.

‘None of this is peaceful protest’

Finally, on Thursday, Biden spoke out against the demonstrations, saying that while peaceful protest is protected under the First Amendment, “violent protest is not.”

“Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations—none of this is peaceful protest,” Biden said.

During the UCLA protest, Jewish students were asked if they were Zionists and blocked from entering the Powell Library to study.

In a viral post, a concerned mother calls the school’s police department and asks, “Are the protesters allowed to not allow a student who pays tuition access to their class in the library?”

“No, they’re not allowed, but unfortunately they have kind of taken over that little area. … the police are not intervening with that right now and this is coming from the university,” the police representative says.

“So the university has taken a stance that they will not, in fact, allow or help Jewish students get to their classes? That this is going to be tolerated?” the parent asks.

“We have received a directive to not intervene at this time, yes,” the police representative answers.

A video also emerged of a young Jewish girl knocked unconscious by protesters. She was later taken to the hospital, according to reports.

Last week, national U.S. Jewish groups called on universities to enforce their rules, complaining of a failure to protect their Jewish students in the face of pro-Hamas and antisemitic protests.

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