Yesterday morning at UCLA, more than 45 students and other community members were arrested by campus police (UCPD) in a parking structure on campus. The group, a coalition of UCLA students and faculty, some of whom two weeks ago raised a Palestine Solidarity Encampment, were detained for four hours in the parking lot and later charged by UCPD for conspiracy to commit burglary. Members of the press and legal observers were also arrested. Local leaders, UCLA faculty, and labor groups condemned the mass arrest. 

The Palestine Solidarity Encampment at UCLA said in a statement yesterday that “When they were arrested, students were not currently protesting. These unlawful arrests constitute harassment and abuse of power by law enforcement, and serve solely as an intimidation tactic.” 

This mass arrest comes after a week of widespread violence at UCLA. Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters were hospitalized for injuries after a two-day attack on the encampment. Around 245 in total have been arrested. 

Over the last week, at least 29 faculty statements have been released denouncing UCLA Chancellor Gene Block’s inaction during last Tuesday’s attacks and the forcible removal of the student encampment on Wednesday. The latest statements criticized the mass arrest yesterday and Block’s fealty to increasing police presence and operations on campus. 

Chancellor Block and President Michael Drake, among other administrators, have been criticized roundly for their treatment of students and suppression of legal protests. While UCLA leadership initially supported the student encampment, they abruptly changed tack last Tuesday and declared the Royce Quad camp unlawful.

Faculty from the school’s history department, among others, have pointed out the administration’s about-face. In a statement released last week, history faculty said Tuesday’s statements from UCLA leadership “Withdrew official protections from these peaceful student activities, making the students vulnerable to attack. Later that night, the campus was invaded by a violent mob of individuals.”

Critics allege that inaction on the part of UCLA and the UCLA Police Department (UCPD) allowed for a vicious attack against pro-Palestinian protesters that lasted for six hours on Tuesday night. 

While UCLA and UCPD have blamed each other for the lack of a security response, the assailants from Tuesday remain unapprehended. A group of around 100 people – “Some self-identified Zionists and some white nationalist aggressors” according to a statement released by Jewish faculty – beat protestors en masse with sticks and metal pipes and tried to dismantle the encampment piece by piece. 

Extensive footage and reports on the ground paint a grim picture: police were called by witnesses and members of the encampment as early as 11:00 p.m. that night, but police officers did not arrive to disperse the mob until 1:30 a.m. In a statement released after the attack, members of the encampment said “Law enforcement simply stood at the edge of the lawn and refused to budge as we screamed for their help.” Anahid Nersessian, an English Professor at UCLA, wrote “For roughly five hours, [police] stood at a comfortable distance, laughing and occasionally chatting amicably with the mob.”

At 3:00 a.m., the police eventually moved to clear the attackers from the Quad. They made no arrests. Footage of the dispersal shows the officers creating a line and gradually walking towards the encampment. The group that spent hours attacking the encampment rallied behind the police line, chanting “Back the blue.” 

Within 24 hours, the encampment was raided by California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers with the collaboration of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. UCLA administrators announced that the previous night’s attack constituted a severe enough threat to safety that justified the forcible removal of protestors and the destruction of their encampment. In a meeting just before the police operation, UCLA Vice Chancellor Darnell Hunt told students “We were working with you to keep this going until what happened last night.” Students told Hunt that they felt they were being punished for the attack against them. Students objected to the administration framing the encampment dispersal as a protective measure, anticipating that the police would cause them further harm.  

“Where were you yesterday?” Protesters chanted at police as thousands rallied at UCLA last Wednesday to protect the encampment from further attacks.

Students for Justice in Palestine (JVP) at UCLA reported that at least five students were shot in the head with rubber bullets by police. Community members expressed outrage at the violence they witnessed and experienced at the hands of police officers. 

On Sunday, Chancellor Block released another statement regarding campus safety. Responding to the campus’s safety failures, Block announced the creation of a new Office of Campus Safety and a new security position, one that would be filled “effective immediately” by Rick Braziel, former Sacramento Chief of Police. Braziel has been frequently consulted for investigations into police brutality and negligence.

In Springfield, Oregon, Braziel was reportedly paid $30,000 to conduct an investigation into police misconduct during a protest in 2020. Activists in Springfield questioned his report, which called most of the department’s actions “reasonable.” Protestors with Black Unity in Springfield were “Injured by both law enforcement and violent far-right counter-protesters” in a protracted assault that led to an investigation by the city. Years after the protest, as Springfield police drew criticisms again for their excessive use of force, community members wondered why the city paid for recommendations from Braziel that were never implemented. 

UCLA’s policing solution rankles some community members familiar with the tactic. Block’s announcement drew ire from faculty, particularly once they learned that the Office of Campus Safety’s first act was to pre-emptively arrest students Monday morning for protesting. A statement from UCLA’s African American Studies department says Block’s decision came “Without the consent of the faculty senate” and was “Not sanctioned by any collective governing body of the university. Marginalized communities know all too well that a greater police presence has never been the answer to institutional failures.” They said UCPD, “Fully emboldened by the campus administration’s actions and statements,” detained students on Monday “Without explanation.”

“Turning our campus into a highly policed and militarized area in the name of ‘security,’ will not address the mishandling by the UCLA administration. We object in the strongest possible terms to all of these actions that place our community at further risk of detention and violence,” said faculty. 

Ananya Roy, a UCLA Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare, and Geography said Monday’s arrests “Show that we are under police occupation by orders from our administration. These are not conditions under which faculty can teach or students can learn. These are not conditions that can be normalized or accepted.” Roy communicated the minimum demands of UCLA Faculty: “1. Resignation of UCLA Chancellor Gene Block 2. All legal charges dropped and full amnesty 3. Full disclosure of all UCLA investments and divestment from military weapons companies.”

Labor groups are joining the UCLA community in response to the administration’s actions from the past week. The California Federation of Teachers (CFT), an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, has called for Block’s resignation. United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 4811, which represents academic workers in the UC system, has called a strike authorization vote (SAV) for next week. Local 4811 also reported that they have filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against the university system “In response to UC’s actions against peaceful protesters – including UAW 4811 members.”

Local leaders have also raised alarms over the UCPD’s actions yesterday. L.A. County District 3 Supervisor Lindsey Horvath called the detention of legal observers and reporters “Completely unconscionable.” “They must be released immediately. The fundamental freedom of the press is at stake,” Horvath said on Monday. 

Assemblymember Isaac Bryan called for the release of everyone arrested, saying the students were being treated like the campus was a “War zone.”

Students remain committed to opposing the war in Gaza. They call on community members to “Monitor and oppose the increasingly repressive fascist tactics being deployed” at UCLA and abroad. 

UCLA did not respond to a request for comment on yesterday’s arrests. They commented that questions should be referred to UCPD. 

Photo by the author.

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