UCLA police reviewing footage of attack on protesters' encampment; Gascón, FBI contacted for help

UCLA's chancellor vowed that "instigators" who attacked the encampment "will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Wednesday, May 8, 2024
UCLA police reviewing footage of attack on protesters' encampment
An investigation continued into the attack on pro-Palestinian protesters' encampment last week at Royce Quad at UCLA, which the chancellor of UCLA called "a truly despicable act."

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An investigation continued Tuesday into the attack on pro-Palestinian protesters' encampment last week at UCLA, which the college's chancellor called "a truly despicable act."

In a notice sent to the UCLA community on Monday, Chancellor Gene Block said identifying those responsible for the violence on campus remains a top priority.

"To that end, inaugural Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Safety Officer Rick Braziel is leading a law enforcement investigation to identify the perpetrators of the violence and hold them to account. The LAPD has committed a detective to assist in our investigative efforts, and we have also connected with the FBI about possible assistance. We have spoken to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón to solicit his help in ensuring that the instigators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Block wrote in his notice.

A group of what Block described as "instigators" went to the plaza outside Royce Hall and "violently attacked students, faculty and staff members who were encamped to advocate for Palestinian rights," the chancellor said in a statement. "This was a truly despicable act, and in my message to the campus the following day, I committed to finding those responsible and bringing them to justice."

Block said he and Braziel have directed the campus police department to invest whatever resources are needed to conduct a "rapid and thorough investigation into the violent attack."

"UCPD is currently reviewing all available footage from last Tuesday night and speaking to witnesses who were present. We urge anyone who saw the violence firsthand or who has information about the attack to report it as soon as possible."

In the wake of the attacks and arrests on campus, a new Office of Campus Safety was created under the direction of Block and headed by Braziel. The Office of Campus Safety is reviewing UC Police Department's response to the attack and conducting an analysis of UCLA's security protocols. It is assessing all acts of violence that has occurred on campus over the past 12 days. Braziel is expected to create a plan to put in place to establish additional means of protecting students, staff and visitors on campus.

President Joe Biden is set to issue a forceful condemnation of antisemitism during a Tuesday ceremony to remember victims of the Holocaust at a time when the Hamas attack on Israel and controversy over the war in Gaza have sparked new waves of violence and hateful rhetoric toward Jews.

"Holding the instigators of this attack accountable and enhancing our campus safety operations are both critical. Our community members can only learn, work and thrive in an environment where they feel secure," Block wrote in the notice.

'A very eerie environment' on campus

In an interview on Tuesday, UCLA senior Adam Jacobsen noted that "our graduation is less than a month away."

"There's supposed to be this big energy around campus, gearing up for the end of the year and the beginning of next year," Jacobsen said. "But what you're seeing is it's very dystopian. There's like a very eerie environment around here now.

"People just aren't happy. They're mad at the university, they're mad at each other. This is supposed to be happy time of year -- spring quarter -- nice weather, sunny out for the first time in a while. And we're supposed to be around campus, enjoying classes, enjoying each other's company. But right now, with everything else going on around us, it's adding to the stress that we already feel as college students -- between our classes and our jobs and our future."

Confrontations continue at universities nationwide

Meanwhile, cleared a pro-Palestinian tent encampment at the University of Chicago on Tuesday as tension ratcheted up in standoffs with demonstrators at other college campuses across the U.S. - and increasingly, in Europe.

Nearly three weeks into a movement launched by a protest at Columbia University, the Rhode Island School of Design held talks with protesters occupying a building, and MIT dealt with a new encampment on a site that was cleared but immediately retaken by demonstrators.

The confrontations come as campuses try a range of strategies, from appeasement to threats of disciplinary action, to resolve the protests against the Israel-Hamas war and clear the way for commencements.

Police removed barricades and began dismantling pro-Palestinian demonstrators' fortified encampment at UCLA after hundreds of protesters defied orders to leave. Here's how the law enforcement operation unfolded.

USC earlier canceled its main graduation ceremony. Students abandoned their camp at USC on Sunday after being surrounded by police and threatened with arrest. Other universities have held graduation ceremonies with beefed-up security. The University of Michigan's ceremony was interrupted by chanting a few times Saturday.

At UC San Diego, police cleared an encampment and arrested more than 64 people, including 40 students.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians, about two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. Israeli strikes have devastated the enclave and displaced most of its inhabitants.

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