UCLA Protests Intensify: Pro-Palestinian Encampment Targeted by Fascist Assault

Ndindi Kitonga,
Rocio Lopez,
Lyndon Porter

Summary: Following violent assaults by fascist counter-protestors and police, UCLA faces widespread condemnation, triggering solidarity nationwide against the backdrop of escalating violence in Gaza. — Editors

Tensions continue to escalate at the University of California, Los Angeles, following the formation of the UCLA student Pro-Palestinian Gaza Solidarity encampment on April 25th, 2024 (https://imhojournal.org/articles/student-movement-for-palestine-at-ucla/). On one side, there are supporters of Israel’s actions in Gaza, while on the other, students advocating for a lasting ceasefire and the university’s divestment from corporations profiting from Israel’s presence in Palestinian territories. While police suppression and Zionist counter-protestors have been present since the beginning of the encampment’s creation, last week’s events represented a violent turning point.

On Tuesday, April 30th, UCLA administration released a statement calling the encampments “unlawful” and that any student or staff who do not leave the area may face disciplinary measures. They detailed even harsher consequences for those not affiliated with the university.

The same night at around 11 PM, 100-200 fascist and rightwing Zionist counter-protestors launched a violent assault on the UCLA encampment in the middle of the night. The assault lasted 3+ hours. Fascists launched fireworks into the camp, tore down barricades, and beat and pepper sprayed people. 3 hours into this assault, at 2 AM, LA Mayor Karen Bass tweeted that the LAPD had been called in to deal with the violence.

UCLA security and UCPD stood by for 4 hours before CHP and LAPD showed up. They continued to allow fascists to assault the camp until clearing the area around 3 AM. The Zionists cheered when the cops arrived, and they were asked to disperse and left without consequence. They didn’t arrest any of the fascist counter-protestors by even a week later. Dozens of protestors reported injuries with over 20 concussions, a shattered wrist, and many other injuries.

Several groups were observed taking part in the assault including the violent transphobic “Leave Our Kids Alone” (LOKA) coalition, Jewish Defense League (JDL), local fascist white supremacist groups, people claiming IDF affiliation, and a variety of other violent opportunists.

The following day, the UCLA administration announced classes would be cancelled, and Thursday and Friday classes would be held remotely. Encampment members saw this action as another failure to address their demands and the violent confrontation that had just occurred the night before. UC authorities had taken a relatively hands-off approach with the occupation up to then, unlike many other colleges.

Almost 24 hours later at 1:30 AM Thursday, May 2nd, UCPD along with the LAPD and CHP breached the encampment with flash bang grenades and rubber bullets after the university warned protestors to disperse. Officers in riot gear confronted protestors who stood organized in lines chanting “We’re not leaving” and “Peaceful protest.” The battle continued through the night as protestors were zip tied or run off by police. They arrested over 200 students and professors who were ticketed and transported on prison buses. The sheriff’s department refused to publicly state where those arrested were being taken and what charges were being brought against them. Only later it was revealed they would be charged with unlawful assembly and released with a later court date. (Read a firsthand report of the 2 nights here: https://lapublicpress.org/2024/05/two-nights-of-violence-at-uclas-solidarity-encampment/ )

In the following days, several UCLA academic departments released statements condemning both the counter-protestors and the treatment of the protestors by the university. They demanded amnesty for the protestors and signed letters that called for Chancellor Gene Block’s resignation.

Several unions including United Auto Workers Local 4811 and California Federation of Teachers (CFT) have also expressed solidarity with the protestors, calling for an authorization to strike vote if the university continues its inaction in the face of violent counterprotest and does not negotiate with the pro-Palestinian protestors’ demands.

Despite the clearing of the encampment and mass arrests made days before protestors had not given up. On the morning of Monday, May 6th, protestors conducted a sit-in where they chanted “Free Palestine” inside several buildings in the university. Police responded by setting up metal barriers to prevent crowds from entering the buildings and arrested several people.

University police also arrested 44 people at a parking garage on suspicion of burglary which included several independent journalists and a well-known police critic William Gude. The police department still has the phones of those detained. Observers have labeled the detainment and brutal treatment of journalists at protests as further evidence of fascist tendencies. After Monday’s arrests, students moved their protest to Van Nuys jail to provide jail support to those who were arrested.

Later in the afternoon, the university announced that all classes would be remote through May 10th due to “ongoing disruptions.” They insisted students and faculty avoid campus and stated there would be an increased police presence. Meanwhile, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block responded to criticisms of the university’s actions against the protestors with the creation of the Office of Campus Safety led by Rick Braziel, a former Sacramento police chief, who will oversee the campus police department. Braziel was also one of nine people involved in a review of the Uvalde, Texas shooting in 2022, which published a report that cleared the Uvalde Police Department of any wrongdoing.

As the UCLA administration and LAPD sat by and allowed fascist mobs to do their dirty work, millions sat witness to the violence seen on the news and videos posted on social media. Although the media has tried to maintain a neutral narrative and not represent the protestors as victims, it is clear to anyone watching coverage of the protests that the state was complicit in the fascist assault on unarmed protestors and subsequently led its own attack that resulted in further unnecessary violence. The fascist attacks and the university’s response have prompted many to come out in support of the protestors and denounce the university for its failure to protect students, resulting in escalated violence.

UCLA is only one of the many college campuses across the nation that has become a center of pro-Palestine protests. As the Palestinian death toll continues to rise so does the pressure by students and workers. Student organizations continue to lead protests and encourage other students and faculty to show solidarity through walkouts and sit-ins.  While the violent attacks by fascist counter-protestors and subsequent suppression by LAPD have painted a bleak picture, the movement has not slowed down as antiwar protests continue at UCLA and around the country. Students at UCLA continue to demonstrate their strength in the face of fascist reaction and state suppression generating a wave of solidarity with those suffering genocide in Gaza.



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