Police Clear UCLA Anti-Israel Encampment and Arrest Dozens of Activists

UCLA protesters shout 'shame on you!' and compare officers to Ku Klux Klan

California Highway Patrol officers clear a pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
May 2, 2024

Los Angeles police early Thursday morning cleared the anti-Israel encampment at UCLA and arrested dozens of activists, who for the past week have barricaded a central swathe of campus and flouted the university’s order to disperse Wednesday night. During the showdown, protesters shouted "shame on you!" to the officers and compared them to the Ku Klux Klan.

The protesters had been preparing to "push back" against police action, according to a memo from the "Palestinian Solidarity Encampment" that was circulating among students before UCLA officials ordered activists to abandon the camp. The memo, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, instructed "white and able bodied individuals" to serve as the first line of defense against the cops, keeping "black, brown, and other people of color" as the "inner circle."

The standoff lasted for hours into the early morning. Activists used strobe lights to try to fend off officers who surrounded them with riot gear. Ultimately the police moved in, dismantled the camp and arrested dozens of protesters who refused to leave.

The protesters’ pushback against the police came less than 24 hours after Los Angeles cops were called in to quell a violent clash between pro- and anti-Israel forces around the encampment, which anti-Israel activists called a "horrifying, despicable act of terror." University officials said they are investigating the source of the conflict. Earlier Wednesday, anti-Israel activists held a press conference where they blamed campus security and the police for not doing enough to protect them during that clash.

"The only means of protection we had was each other," one of the press conference leaders said, according to an Instagram livestream. "We keep each other safe."

One of the encampment’s demands of the university as a condition of decamping is to "defund the police." When the Los Angeles Police Department showed up early Wednesday morning to break up the campus riot, the anti-Israel protesters shouted, "Pigs, go home," according to footage shared on X, formerly Twitter.

UCLA’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, which is one of the groups behind the encampment, did not respond to a request for comment. The other main protest coordinator, UC Divest Coalition at UCLA, could not be reached for comment.

Throughout Wednesday, the activists prepared to hunker down in the encampment. Fox footage shows an ad hoc wall around their tents built from wood pallets and plywood. They also demanded vegan and gluten free food, rope and zip ties, helmets, shields and wood, lotion and knee and elbow pads—as well as "super bright" flashlights with strobe. They said they would not accept bagels, bananas, nuts, coffee, or packaged food.

The university, whose representatives did not respond to a request for comment, canceled classes Wednesday and moved students to online learning for the rest of the week.

Dan Gold, head of the pro-Israel group Hillel at UCLA, sent an email to the Jewish community late Wednesday night predicting "a difficult few days ahead" and noting that Hillel itself has bolstered security.

"We encourage our students to make safe choices and, when possible, avoid areas that are likely to become ‘hot spots’ and we explicitly discourage any off-campus community members, no matter what the goal, from coming onto campus," Gold wrote.

Activists launched their camp between the main campus library and the university’s iconic music hall last Thursday. On Monday and Tuesday, anti-Israel protesters blocked Jewish students from their classrooms, assaulted at least two students—chasing and surrounding one, according to footage from the United Jewish Coalition, and beating a Jewish girl until she was hospitalized—and only allowed free passage around campus to students who pledged fealty to their cause in exchange for a wristband.

University leaders made it clear they would not "divest" from Israel as the protesters demanded. On Wednesday, one of the encampment leaders said they wanted more than divestment.

"Given the fact that the University of California is founded on colonialism, it’s inherently a violent institution," she said.