UCLA protests fallout: Police chief reassigned, chancellor to face congressional committee

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Thursday, May 23, 2024
Trauma, stress linger on UCLA campus weeks after protests
Weeks after clashes at a pro-Palestinian protest, UCLA's police chief has been reassigned and the chancellor is set to be grilled by Congress.

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Weeks after clashes broke out at a pro-Palestinian protest on UCLA's campus, the school police chief has been reassigned to other duties and the school chancellor is set to be grilled by Congress about antisemitism on campus.

The school administration and the campus police force continue to face questions about the handling of chaos at the demonstration, when counter-protesters attacked encamped students and the law enforcement response was delayed for hours.

This week, the school announced the campus police Chief John Thomas was being temporarily reassigned to other, unspecified duties. The administration previously announced the creation of a new Office of Campus Safety to oversee the police department and campus security.

Students say anger and stress still linger from the encampments themselves, the chaos and how the situation was handled.

"There's still a lot of trauma from the past couple of weeks, with the police raids and the violence against students," said UCLA student Adam Jacobsen. "There's a very palpable tension in the air."

"There's a lot of anger on campus that our administration allowed us to get to this point instead of engaging in any substantive way with the demands for divestment and disclosure that the encampment and protesters were bringing," said student Benjamin Kersten.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block is set to testify Thursday on Capitol Hill in front of the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Block will face tough questioning about antisemitism on campus and the school's response to the protests.

Questioning by the same committee contributed to resignations by the presidents of Harvard and Penn. Block had already announced before the protests that he planned to step down later this year.

"I think it is a pretty despicable bit of political theater," Kersten said. "I think Republican officials have found that by going after antisemitism on campus, they're able to further a right-wing agenda that attacks the autonomy of universities."

UCLA students and faculty held a pro-Palestinian rally ahead of Thursday's hearing.

Jacobsen, who is Jewish, said there were some elements of antisemitism in the encampment.

"I think it is unfair to say that there was absolutely no antisemitism," Jacobsen said. "There definitely was some. But I don't think everybody is saying these phrases "from the river to the sea" or equating the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) to other hate groups is necessarily hateful. I think people have good intentions, but they don't understand the implications of what they're saying."