Israel-Gaza war: police flatten pro-Palestinian camp at UCLA, arrest protesters

Hundreds of helmeted police swarmed the site of a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of California at Los Angeles early on Thursday, arresting defiant demonstrators and dismantling their encampment.

The predawn police crackdown at UCLA marked the latest flashpoint in mounting tensions on US college campuses, where protests over Israel’s war in Gaza have led to student clashes with each other and with law enforcement.

Before moving in, police urged demonstrators in repeated loudspeaker announcements to clear the protest zone, which occupied a central plaza about the size of a football field.

For Columbia University’s Chinese, pro-Palestinian protests evoke sympathy, fear

“If you fail to leave and remain present in the encampment or unauthorised tents or structures … you will be in violation of the law and those who choose to remain could face sanctions,” UCLA said in an early morning alert before police closed on the encampment.

After massing around the campus for hours, officers eventually moved through the area in lines holding batons as protesters – some in white helmets – linked arms, attempting to block their advance.

Live TV footage showed officers taking down tents and removing the encampment, while arrested protesters sat with their hands restrained behind their backs with zip-ties.

Students have rallied or set up tent encampments at dozens of schools in recent days, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and demanding schools divest from companies that support Israel’s government. Many of the schools, including Columbia University in New York City, have called in police to quell the protests.

Police at one of the buildings on the UCLA campus on Thursday. Photo: TNS

Campus clashes

At UCLA, dozens of loud explosions were heard during the clash from flash-bang charges, or stun grenades, fired by police as they moved into the camp in the early hours of the morning.

Demonstrators, some carrying makeshift shields and umbrellas, sought to block the officers’ advance by their sheer numbers, while chanting, “push them back” and flashing bright lights in the eyes of the police.

Others on the opposite side of the camp gave up quickly, and were seen walking away with their hands over their heads under police escort.

Pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel activists clash at an encampment at UCLA early on Wednesday morning. Photo: TNS

The police operation had started around sunset on Wednesday, when officers in tactical gear had begun filing onto the UCLA campus and taking up positions near a complex of tents occupied by throngs of demonstrators.

Local television station KABC-TV estimated 300 to 500 protesters were hunkered down inside the camp, many wearing the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh scarves, while around 2,000 more had gathered outside the barricades in support.

Those numbers dwindled on Thursday as protesters left the camp and were arrested.

Some of the protesters had been seen donning hard hats, goggles and respirator masks in anticipation of the siege a day after the university declared the encampment unlawful.

Malaysian students in US face prejudice as Gaza protests sweep campuses

The protests follow the deadly October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip, which killed 1,200 people and saw dozens taken hostage, and an ensuing Israeli offensive that has killed about 34,000 and created a humanitarian crisis.

The demonstrations at UCLA and other campuses have been met with counterprotesters accusing them of fomenting anti-Jewish hatred. The pro-Palestinian side, including some Jews opposed to Israeli actions in Gaza, say they are being unfairly branded as antisemitic for criticising Israel’s government and expressing support for human rights.

The issue has taken on political overtones in the run-up to the US presidential election in November, with Republicans accusing some university administrators of turning a blind eye to antisemitic rhetoric and harassment.

UCLA crackdown came day after violent clash

UCLA had cancelled classes for the day on Wednesday following a violent clash between the encampment’s occupants and a group of masked counter-demonstrators who mounted a surprise assault late Tuesday night on the tent city.

The occupants of the camp, set up last week, had remained mostly peaceful before the melee, in which both sides traded blows and doused each other with pepper spray.

Members of the pro-Palestinian group said fireworks were thrown at them, and they were beaten with bats and sticks. University officials blamed the disturbance on “instigators” and vowed an investigation.

Pro-Palestinian protests at US universities show no sign of slowing after hundreds arrested

The confrontation went on for two or three hours into early Wednesday morning before police restored order. A spokesperson for California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, later criticised the “limited and delayed campus law enforcement response” to the unrest as “unacceptable”.

As the much-expanded police force entered the campus on Wednesday night to clear the encampment, some of the protesters were heard yelling at them, “Where were you yesterday?”

Taylor Gee, a 30-year-old pro-Palestinian protester and UCLA law student, said the police action felt “especially galling” to many protesters given the slow police response a night earlier.

“For them to come out the next night to remove us from the encampment, it doesn’t make any sense, but it also makes all the sense in the world.”

UCLA officials said the campus, with nearly 52,000 students, would remain closed except for limited operations on Thursday and Friday.

The police action at UCLA came after police in New York City on Tuesday arrested pro-Palestinian activists who occupied a building at Columbia University and removed a tent city from the campus of the Ivy League school.

Police arrested a total of about 300 people at Columbia and City College of New York, Mayor Eric Adams said. Many of those arrested were charged with trespassing and criminal mischief.



Read More

Leave a Reply