Police clear pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA, arrest more than 200 protesters

Thursday, May 2, 2024
UCLA campus calmer now after police disperse protest, arrest over 200
Though tension remains, the UCLA campus was quieter Thursday evening after police broke up a massive protest on campus and detained more than 200 people.

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A pro-Palestinian encampment on the UCLA campus was largely cleared by law enforcement officers Thursday morning, resulting in the arrests of protesters who remained there for hours after they were ordered to leave.

A dispersal order was issued Wednesday evening and by 3:30 a.m. Thursday, CHP officers in riot gear began advancing on the encampment. They then began dismantling and tearing away pieces of plywood, metal barriers and other items that protesters used to fortify it.

More than 200 people were arrested and booked, according to the sheriff's department. They were detained with zip ties. It's unclear how many of those detained were students.

Most of them were cited for unlawful assembly and then released. Some who participated in violence may face additional criminal charges, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.

"The more serious cases," Gascón said. "We have assault with a deadly weapon. We have assaults where you have injuries. in those cases, that would come to my office."

More than100 protesters were arrested as authorities cleared out a pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA, a California Highway Patrol spokesperson said Thursday morning.

The law enforcement action came after officers spent hours threatening arrests over loud speakers if people did not disperse. Hundreds of people had gathered on campus, both inside a barricaded tent encampment and outside of it in support.

As police helicopters hovered overhead, the sound of flash-bangs, which produce a bright light and a loud noise to disorient and stun people, could be heard as police moved in.

Law enforcement officers began dismantling a pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA hours after protesters were ordered to disperse.

CHP officers wearing face shields and protective vests stood with their batons protruding out to separate them from demonstrators, who wore helmets and gas masks and chanted, "you want peace. We want justice."

Police methodically ripped apart the encampment's barricade of plywood, pallets, metal fences and trash dumpsters and made an opening toward dozens of tents of demonstrators. Police also began to pull down canopies and tents. Demonstrators held umbrellas like shields as they faced off with dozens of officers.

As officers worked their way into the encampment, taking protesters into custody as they went, a core group of protesters formed a line and linked arms while face-to-face with law enforcement officers.

As the morning progressed, the number of those detained swelled into the hundreds. Most of them went peacefully. One young man was briefly pinned to the ground by officers before he was escorted away.

Pro-Palestinian protesters spoke out after being detained by law enforcement officers at UCLA.

The encampment was eventually cleared of protesters, but their tents, equipment and other items were left behind. By the next day, much of it was removed and trashed.

Earlier in the morning, LAPD officers broke through an area of the encampment and came face to face with protesters. The protesters - outnumbering the officers - suddenly converged on police, forcing them to retreat. Up to that point, police had positioned themselves on the outskirts of the encampment.

For most of the night and into the early morning, the situation seemed tense but there were no drastic moments of violence between the two sides.

A large police presence was on hand at UCLA as authorities attempted to disperse crowds that had grown to the thousands Wednesday night.

The dispersal order was issued after 6 p.m. Wednesday, and the Los Angeles Police Department declared a tactical alert as officers in riot gear positioned themselves on campus to remove protesters who all day had been signaling their intentions to dig in to their positions.

The law enforcement presence stood in contrast to the scene that unfolded Tuesday night, when counter-demonstrators attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment.

UCLA administration and campus police waited hours to stop the counterprotesters' attack. The delay drew condemnation from Muslim students and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Demonstrators rebuilt the makeshift barriers around their tents on Wednesday while state and campus police watched.

Police have ordered protesters to disperse from the UCLA campus after an encampment grew in size during the daytime Wednesday.

At least 15 people were injured during hours of clashes Tuesday night. There was no police presence on campus for at least three hours as protesters and counter-protesters fought, in some cases using metal barricades and plywood as weapons, as well as deploying bear spray and tear gas.

UCLA chancellor responds: "Our community is in deep pain"

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block released a statement Thursday afternoon, saying the clashes between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators have "put too many Bruins in harm's way."

He said about 300 protesters voluntarily left Thursday morning but more than 200 "resisted orders to disperse" and were arrested.

Block said over the past few days, his administration made a formal request to meet with protest leaders to talk about a "peaceful and voluntary disbanding" of the encampment but no agreement was met.

"I also want to recognize the significance of the issues behind the demonstrators' advocacy," wrote Block in the statement. "The loss of life in Gaza has been truly devastating, and my administration has and will continue to connect with student and faculty leaders advocating for Palestinian rights to engage in discussions that are grounded in listening, learning and mutual respect. Similarly, we will continue to support our Jewish students and employees who are reeling from the trauma of the brutal Oct. 7 attacks and a painful spike in antisemitism worldwide."

You can read the full statement here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.