Classes canceled at UCLA after night of violence between protest groups

Gov. Newsom condemned the violence and his office called the delayed police response "unacceptable."

Jaysha Patel Image
Thursday, May 2, 2024
UCLA protesters staying camped on campus, preparing for more unrest
Pro-Palestinian protesters who are camped out on the UCLA campus are bringing in supplies to prepare for another night of possible violence.

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Classes were canceled Wednesday following a night of violence that broke out when counter-protesters tried to break down the encampment , leading to fights and altercations that went on for more than three hours before law enforcement intervened.

The violence among pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators began shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday on the Westwood campus. There was no police or campus security presence among the chaos for hours as punches were thrown, plywood and metal barricades were used as weapons and fireworks went off near the encampments. Tear gas and bear spray were also reportedly used by those in the crowd.

Even when some external police departments began showing up around 1:30 a.m. they did not wade into the fracas but continued to hold their ground on the perimeter. By 3 a.m. a heavy police presence led by CHP officers was established and started slowly moving in to disperse the crowd, which had started to thin by that point. LAPD, county sheriff's deputies and campus police were also involved.

The University of California president's office said there were 15 reported injuries, including one hospitalization.

The delayed response from law enforcement drew criticism from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who also condemned the violence in a statement.

"The law is clear: The right to free speech does not extend to inciting violence, vandalism, or lawlessness on campus. Those who engage in illegal behavior must be held accountable for their actions - including through criminal prosecution, suspension, or expulsion," his statement read.

Additionally, a statement from a spokesperson for the governor said the "limited and delayed campus law enforcement response at UCLA last night was unacceptable - and it demands answers."

UC President Michael V. Drake is demanding a review of how the incident was handled.

"My office has requested a detailed accounting from the campus about what transpired in the early morning hours today," Drake said. "But some confusion remains, therefore we are also ordering an independent external review of both UCLA's planning and actions, and the effectiveness of the mutual aid response. Such a review will help us address many immediate questions but also help guide us in possible future events."

How many of the protesters involved in the overnight fighting were UCLA students was unclear.

UCLA students and alumni expressed their reactions in the aftermath of violent clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators on campus.

After hours of scuffles between protesters, police wearing helmets and face shields formed lines and slowly separated the groups. That quelled the violence, and the scene was calm as day broke. Wednesday's classes were canceled.

"Due to the distress caused by the violence that took place on Royce Quad late last night and early this morning, all classes are cancelled today. Please avoid the Royce Quad area," a UCLA statement said. Royce Hall is expected to remain closed through Friday, and Powell Library is scheduled to reopen Monday.

"We are appalled at the violence that took place on the campus of UCLA last night," the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles said. "The abhorrent actions of a few counter protestors last night do not represent the Jewish community or our values. We believe in peaceful, civic discourse."

"Unfortunately, the violence at UCLA is a result of the lack of leadership from the Chancellor and the UCLA administration," the statement said, calling for university officials to "immediately close the encampment and reestablish deterrence."

Chaos erupted at UCLA overnight between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters at an encampment on campus, prompting a response from law enforcement.

The clashes at UCLA took place around a tent encampment built by pro-Palestinian protesters, who erected a line of parade barricades, plywood and wooden pallets at the edge of the camp - while counter-protesters tried to pull them down. Video showed fireworks exploding over and in the encampment.

People threw chairs and other objects and at one point a group piled on a person who lay on the ground, kicking and beating them with sticks until others pulled them out of the scrum.

"Horrific acts of violence occurred at the encampment tonight and we immediately called law enforcement for mutual aid support," Mary Osako, a UCLA vice chancellor and spokeswoman, said in a statement. "The fire department and medical personnel are on the scene. We are sickened by this senseless violence and it must end."

No arrests were immediately announced.

Mayor Karen Bass called the violence "absolutely abhorrent and inexcusable" in a post on social media platform X.

Preparing for another day

On Wednesday, the protesters were making it clear they were there to stay.

Plywood was being brought in to rebuild walls that were torn down overnight. Supplies and kits were made available, including umbrellas, goggles, gas masks and other protective equipment.

"What happens next in my eyes is we still stay here," said Alicia Verdugo, one of the student protesters. "We stay here until further notice, until our demands are met."

Violence erupted when counter-protesters tried to break down a pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA on Wednesday, May 1, 2024.
AP Photo/Ethan Swope

UCLA student reporters assaulted

UCLA's student-run newspaper, the Daily Bruin, says four of its reporters were walking on campus when they were followed and assaulted around 3:30 a.m.

The newspaper's Anna Dai-Liu told Eyewitness News said some of them were gassed.

"It has been a rather chaotic day of events at UCLA. We're not quite sure either as to how it escalated to this degree. It's not something... that we have seen yet on campus. It is definitely violent in ways that previous demonstrations by the counter-protesters weren't."

Dai-Liu added that the newspaper's sources indicated the violence was "largely one-sided."

"It's a bit difficult for us to ascertain, obviously, among the chaos that is still going on."

Reaction from UCLA students

"It's really sad to see what's happened to my campus here at UCLA," said a man who gave his name only as Sean. "Paying twenty-something-thousand dollars a year in tuition, seeing videos today of students (who) can't even go to their classrooms, right, because it's being blocked by individuals with opposing beliefs."

A UCLA student named Josh said "they need to get rid of the encampment in general. They need to protect the students, they've completely failed so far."

"I believe in freedom of speech, I believe in the right to protest," Josh said. "But not when it impedes on people's rights just to exist here on the campus, and this is clearly doing that."

Members of the protest groups have said they were there to peacefully express their support for the Palestinian people. But some Jewish UCLA students say they have heard hateful rhetoric that goes beyond peaceful protest, including slogans that some believe call for the destruction of Israel.

"The chants they're yelling, from the river to the sea. Most of them don't understand the implication of that - or if they do it makes it even worse," said law student Logan Cyr. "Intifada calling for extermination of Jews in Israel."

Police enter Columbia's campus as protests continue nationwide

Tent encampments of protesters calling on universities to stop doing business with Israel or companies that support the war in Gaza have spread across the country in a student movement unlike any other in the 21st century, reaching from New York to Texas and California. The ensuing crackdown by police on some college campuses has stirred echoes of the much larger student protest movement during the Vietnam War era.

There have been confrontations with law enforcement and more than 1,000 arrests nationwide. In rarer instances, university officials and protest leaders struck agreements to restrict the disruption to campus life and upcoming commencement ceremonies.

Meanwhile, police burst into a building at Columbia University that pro-Palestinian protesters took over and broke up a demonstration that had paralyzed the school while inspiring others.

Organizers of the pro-Palestinian protests at USC are set to meet with USC President Carol Folt Tuesday for the second consecutive day.

New York City officers entered Columbia's campus after the university requested help, according to a statement released by a spokesperson. A tent encampment on the school's grounds was cleared, along with Hamilton Hall where a stream of officers used a ladder to climb through a second-floor window. Protesters seized the hall at the Ivy League school about 20 hours earlier.

"After the University learned overnight that Hamilton Hall had been occupied, vandalized, and blockaded, we were left with no choice," the school said. "The decision to reach out to the NYPD was in response to the actions of the protesters, not the cause they are championing. We have made it clear that the life of campus cannot be endlessly interrupted by protesters who violate the rules and the law."

City News Service, Inc. and The Associated Press contributed to this report.