Massive police operation breaches UCLA pro-Palestinian encampment, makes arrests

The police moved into the pro Palestinian encampment in UCLA on Thursday morning. They faced fierce resistance and made dozens arrests.

As protesters struggled to hold the plywood and metal fence together, officers wearing helmets, body armor and face shields slowly pulled the barricade apart. The protesters sprayed fire extinguishers at police, which ignited with piercing explosions.

The police fired flares at the camp, which caused loud explosions. Officers viewed the scene through the high windows of Royce Hall. This infuriated protesters, who shone light in their eyes to challenge them to come down.

The operation was conducted on several fronts, including the use of flash-bang devices that were heard across campus as well as tents being dismantled.

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It was a slow-moving operation. Officers made some progress, then stopped to regroup. By 5 am, they had begun to surround the camp.

After a series tense scuffles, they were able move protesters from Royce Hall. Unknown is the number of people taken into custody. Some protesters left the scene by themselves.

A UCLA student who saw the incident said that 15 LAPD officers had entered a barricade at 1:30 am through which they were able to enter the Tonga steps of the school. However, protesters forced them out.

The student who refused to give his name said that the demonstrators who were still in the camp early on Thursday morning were ready to be arrested.

She said, “People who have been here for a long time are sleep-deprived but they are prepared to defend this camp.”

The UCLA Police repeatedly said over loudspeakers, that the protesters must clear the area immediately and those who fail to do so will be arrested.

UCLA has, in recent weeks, joined other universities around the country as a hotbed for pro-Palestinian activity.

Students, faculty and other staff members have set up makeshift camps to demand an end to Israel’s war in Gaza Strip. They also demanded that their universities divest themselves of companies that sell arms or services to Israel.

The protest at UCLA was relatively mild in comparison to other campuses up until Tuesday, just before midnight.

A large group of pro Israel counterdemonstrators in black clothing and white masks tried to break down the barricades around the encampment.

Three hours passed before dozens of police officers from California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Police Department, among others, arrived to restore order. The response was slow, which prompted criticism and demands for an investigation.

Michael V. Drake, UC president, said that there was “enough confusion” about the events. He ordered an independent review of UC’s actions as well as the response from law enforcement.

Students lined up in a bid to stop law enforcement from reaching their encampment as police arrived in large numbers on Wednesday evening.

More than two dozen vehicles of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were parked down the hill from where the tents stood. Students were faced by officers in riot gear.

One student shouted to the crowd, “They won’t be arresting you until they give a dispersal command.”

Another student organizer yelled, “If you do not want to be arrested then don’t stand up front.”

The hours-long standoff was a result of hundreds of protesters swarming the stairs in the courtyard between the tent camp and the majority of police officers.

There were a few pro-Israel activists who arrived with a large Israeli flag. However, they were outnumbered by tens of thousands and no violence was reported.

The mood behind the plywood barricades was anxious, but not panicked. The people were giving out masks, respirators and buckets of water to flush tears gas from the eyes if necessary.

The woman who was giving out cookies, grapes, and granola to protesters announced, “It is the revolution.” You gotta eat.”

One woman, who wanted to stop genocide but did not want to risk her job prospects, claimed that she was “trying” to be arrested, but not for a crime.

While dozens of pro Palestinian protesters poured into the traffic lanes of Dickson Plaza, they chanted, “From river to sea, Palestine will become free.”

Other protesters held up a sign that seemed to expand the protest’s goals: “From Palestine all the way to Mexico, the walls have to come down.”

Matt Barreto is a professor in Chicano Studies and Political Science. He stood beneath a banner with the words “UCLA Faculty and Staff: We Stand With Our Students.”

Barreto claimed that he was among the 30 or so faculty and staff who were willing to arrest students and be in the encampment.

“Our job is standing up for the rights of students on their campus, including their 1st Amendment right. He said, “We’re not here to speak for students.” “We are here to support and protect them, especially following last night.

He added, “We will stand here holding this banner all night long.”

The faculty made the decision to remain in the encampment after circulating a letter with 360 signatures to Chancellor Gene Block, demanding that no police action or discipline be taken against any students.