UC President Launches Investigation into Response Following Violent Night at UCLA, Classes Cancelled

UCLA was left in shock on Wednesday following a night of violence at a pro-Palestinian encampment. The incident has raised serious concerns about the university’s ability to handle the ongoing protests related to the Gaza war and the fate of the camp.

In the late hours of the night, a sizable crowd, dressed in black attire and donning white masks, descended upon the campus with the intent of dismantling the barricades enclosing the encampment.

With their goggles and helmets in place, campers armed with lumber gathered together to protect the boundaries of the site.

During the course of several hours, the counterdemonstrators engaged in the act of throwing various objects, such as wood and a metal barrier, towards the camp and its occupants. Numerous fights erupted as a result. There were attempts made by some individuals to forcefully enter the camp, while those in support of Palestine resorted to using pepper spray as a means of self-defense. Additionally, fireworks were launched into the camp.

The attack lasted for three hours without any counteraction until officers from the California Highway Patrol, LAPD, and other agencies arrived and restored order. The delayed response prompted criticism and demands for investigations.

UC President Michael V. Drake recently stated in a letter to the University of California Board of Regents that due to the considerable amount of confusion surrounding the violence, an independent review will be conducted. This review will focus on evaluating the university’s planning, actions, and the response of law enforcement. The goal is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the events that transpired.

According to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, the recent incident on campus is being regarded as a “dark chapter” in the university’s history. He emphasized that the university is taking the matter seriously and is currently evaluating its security processes in light of the events that unfolded.

The fate of the camp is now the pressing question on campus. On Tuesday evening, UCLA declared the camp as “unlawful” and a violation of university policy.

In his letter to the regents, Drake informed them that Block had assured him that the university would dismantle the encampment at the appropriate time. The encampment was erected last week as a demand for divestment from Israel and an end to the country’s military actions in the Gaza Strip.

The number of people injured in the incident remains uncertain. In his letter to the regents, Drake mentioned that 15 individuals were hurt. However, the demonstrators claim that 25 members from their group required hospital treatment. The Los Angeles Fire Department reported that a 26-year-old man with a head injury was transported to the hospital by paramedics.

Inside the camp, as the violence unfolded, students were taking care of each other, providing treatment for eye irritation and other injuries.

UCLA officials expressed their dismay over the violence and stated that they had reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department for assistance. It remains uncertain whether any arrests were made by the police. Despite a request for comment, UCLA police did not provide a response, and a spokesperson for the LAPD declined to comment on the matter on Wednesday.

Mary Osako, vice chancellor for UCLA strategic communications, expressed her dismay and condemnation of the violent acts that took place at the encampment. She immediately contacted law enforcement for assistance and ensured that the fire department and medical personnel were present at the scene. Osako emphasized the urgent need to put an end to such senseless violence.

When the violence erupted, there were only a few university police officers present on campus. Although a group of unarmed security guards witnessed the confrontations, they chose not to intervene.

Around 1:40 a.m., police officers wearing riot gear arrived at the scene. Some of the counterprotesters started to disperse, but the clashes at the camp persisted despite the police presence.

L.A. Mayor Karen Bass expressed the need for a thorough investigation into the events that unfolded on campus last night. She emphasized that those responsible for launching fireworks at individuals, spraying chemicals, and committing physical assaults will be identified, apprehended, and brought to justice. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of holding accountable anyone involved in any form of violence or unlawful behavior.

According to a camp representative, the counterdemonstrators continuously toppled the barricades that define the limits of the encampment. Some campers reported being struck by a substance they believed to be pepper spray. Amidst the chaos, counterprotesters tried to dismantle the wooden boards surrounding the encampment, and a voice could be heard shouting, “Second nakba!” in reference to the large-scale displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

“I never imagined that I would be physically attacked. It’s disheartening to know that the people involved, especially the one who instigated the aggression, were aware that we were journalists,” she explained. “Although I didn’t believe that being journalists would shield us from harassment, I had hoped it would prevent us from being assaulted. Unfortunately, I was proven wrong.”

In the early hours of the morning, a group of officers swiftly approached the camp, urging the remaining counterprotesters to vacate the quad area. The police issued a clear warning that failure to comply would result in arrest.

According to Ananya Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare, and geography, she expressed her concerns regarding the university’s failure to address the violent counterprotest adequately.

“It’s alarming that individuals can freely invade our campus like a marauding mob,” she expressed. “There seems to be a prevailing belief that they can engage in such behavior without consequence. I feel a deep sense of shame towards my university.”

Hours after the violent episode, students on campus remained deeply disturbed by the events that had unfolded. Both campus security and the CHP were actively collaborating to strengthen the security measures at all entrances leading to the encampment area.

Hannah Appel, an assistant professor of anthropology at UCLA, positioned herself by the staircase next to Royce Hall. She welcomed individuals who were carrying medical supplies, clothing, and water to enter the encampment area.

Appel emphasized the need for heightened vigilance and caution in light of the increased violence witnessed the previous night. Speaking from behind a makeshift barricade, he stressed the importance of carefully monitoring the individuals entering and exiting the area.

Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Los Angeles), who represents the UCLA campus in his district, expressed his disappointment with the university administration in a statement on Wednesday. He stated that they had not fulfilled their duty to safeguard the students.

According to Zbur, it is essential to hold those responsible for violence accountable, regardless of one’s disagreement or offense towards the anti-Israel demonstrators’ messages, tactics, or goals.

The violence, condemned by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, was perpetrated by a group of pro-Israel extremists. CAIR-LA’s Executive Director, Hussam Ayloush, urged law enforcement to identify and hold accountable those involved in the incident. Ayloush also called for an investigation into the police response by Attorney General Rob Bonta.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, Jewish Federation Los Angeles expressed its strong disapproval of the violent incidents that occurred on campus overnight. The organization placed the responsibility for these acts on campus leaders and called for the immediate removal of the encampment.

“The actions of a few counterprotesters last night were completely unacceptable and do not reflect the Jewish community or our core values,” the group expressed. “We firmly believe in promoting peaceful and respectful dialogue within our society.”

Students at universities across the country, including UCLA, are taking a stand against Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip and advocating for divestment from companies that provide weapons or services to the country. As a symbol of their protest, tents have been set up by students, faculty members, and staff, adding to the growing wave of demonstrations demanding change.

The Westwood campus took the lead among University of California campuses in addressing the issue of encampments. Similar encampments have been established at UC campuses in Berkeley, Riverside, and Irvine, as well as at colleges and universities nationwide.

UC has typically approached protests with a more lenient approach compared to USC, Columbia, and other campuses. These institutions have resorted to involving the police, resulting in the arrest of numerous students.

On May 23, the U.S. House committee investigating antisemitism made an announcement that Block, along with the presidents of Yale and the University of Michigan, would be testifying about their campus actions to combat bias and harassment against Jewish students. It is worth noting that the hearings have had severe consequences for the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. In light of this, Block has already revealed his decision to step down as chancellor on July 31.

In a statement on Tuesday, UC President Drake expressed his complete support for UCLA’s action. He emphasized the importance of maintaining flexibility in matters of free speech, but also acknowledged the need to address situations where student learning and expression are impeded, university functions are disrupted, and safety is compromised.

“The University of California campuses are committed to collaborating with students, faculty, and staff to provide the necessary space and ensure the safety of these protests and demonstrations,” he emphasized. “However, we cannot condone disruptive and unlawful protests that infringe upon the rights of our fellow citizens.”

He did not mention the specific behavior at UCLA that he found unacceptable.

The UC Board of Regents has planned a private meeting on Friday to address the student protests.

UC guidance, which was created in response to the controversial incident at UC Davis in 2011, where students peacefully protesting social and economic inequality during the Occupy movement were pepper-sprayed by police, has resulted in a more flexible approach towards allowing protests on college campuses. As long as the protests remain peaceful and do not disrupt campus operations, learning, or teaching, colleges are encouraged to be accommodating. The guidance emphasizes that police intervention should only be considered as a last resort.

Block stated on Tuesday that while a majority of the demonstrators have exhibited peaceful behavior, there have been instances where certain individuals have resorted to tactics that were both shocking and shameful.

“We have witnessed acts of violence that contradict our core values as an institution committed to fostering respect and mutual understanding,” stated the university’s message to the campus community. It further highlighted incidents where students were physically impeded from reaching certain areas of the campus while en route to their classes.

According to the UCLA spokesperson, the university is in favor of peaceful protests. However, they do not support activism that hinders their academic mission and creates a hostile atmosphere for members of the community. In a statement, he acknowledged that these incidents have caused anxiety and fear among students, particularly those of Jewish descent.

Pro-Palestinian students have also reported high levels of fear, which Block failed to mention. This omission has sparked outrage among members of the campus community.

Sherene Razack, a professor of gender studies, expressed her shock and disappointment at the chancellor’s focus solely on the antisemitism experienced by Jewish students. She pointed out that there have been numerous instances of racism and violence targeting Palestinians, Muslims, and anyone who supports Palestinian rights. This narrow perspective fails to acknowledge the broader issues of discrimination and oppression faced by marginalized communities.

The “Palestinian Solidarity Encampment” released a statement claiming that they were being continuously harassed, verbally and physically, by non-UCLA students identified as “Zionist aggressors.” These individuals allegedly attempted to forcefully enter the camp and even threatened them with weapons. Despite these incidents, the statement criticized the lack of intervention from campus security to ensure their safety.

The group strongly criticized UCLA’s decision to dismantle the encampment, labeling it as a cowardly intimidation tactic and a continuation of the university’s ongoing efforts to suppress student activism and stifle pro-Palestinian voices.

According to Dan Gold, the executive director of Hillel at UCLA, he expressed his support for the university’s decision. He stated that Jewish students have been subjected to bullying, harassment, and intimidation in the vicinity of the encampment. Gold highlighted incidents where at least 10 students were denied access to nearby walkways after being questioned about their affiliation with Zionism by the encampment monitors. Additionally, he mentioned that there was a Star of David with the words “step here” drawn in the area, further exemplifying the hostile environment.

According to Gold, the encampment goes against numerous university policies. By not enforcing these rules, chaos and unrest are allowed to prevail. Moreover, this lack of enforcement also enables more severe forms of hate to continue and escalate.

In order to ensure the safety of all parties involved, Block mentioned that the campus intends to bolster security measures by significantly increasing the presence of law enforcement officers, safety personnel, and student affairs staff. Additionally, the recent acts of violence are currently under investigation by law enforcement authorities. Furthermore, Block informed that the barriers that were utilized by demonstrators to obstruct access to buildings have now been removed. It should be noted that students who were found to be involved in these incidents may be subject to disciplinary actions, including suspension or expulsion.

According to UCLA, students are strongly encouraged to utilize the university’s established procedures in order to identify suitable venues for gathering and engaging in protests.

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