California police make multiple arrests at UCLA as they enter campus to remove pro-Palestinian encampment News
© ABC7 Los Angeles
California police make multiple arrests at UCLA as they enter campus to remove pro-Palestinian encampment

Police in riot gear moved onto the UCLA campus in Los Angeles late Wednesday and early Thursday morning local time in an operation to take down a pro-Palestinian encampment and disperse student protesters a day after the encampment was attacked by masked counter-protesters. According to the Daily Bruin, the UCLA college paper, at around 11:20 PM on Wednesday, over 60 officers emerged from Kaplan Hall, positioning themselves alongside other police on Dickson Plaza. By 12:30 AM on Thursday, California Highway Patrol officers established an additional line of reinforcement in front of the barricade surrounding the encampment. Protesters, some wearing hard hats, googles and masks, locked arms, chanted “leave our campus” and created makeshift defences from umbrellas. The protesters are calling for University divestment from Israel in the wake of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which has caused mass casualties among the Palestinian population there.

Video of the protests streamed via the Associated Press and ABC7 in Los Angeles showed smoke and the sound of fireworks in the background, along with California Highway Patrol helicopters overhead. Police were seen dismantling the barricades and arresting people, with some being led away in handcuffs and zip ties. Ben Kersten, from Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA, told  BBC News that police had been setting off flash bangs over the camp; several protesters claimed that rubber bullets had been used. Police sources have said that the police had used “non-lethal” weapons.

This latest action from the police comes a day after masked counter-protesters violently attacked the UCLA encampment, armed with projectiles, fireworks and chemical agents. At least 15 people were injured. On Wednesday, the encampment was declared an unlawful assembly and police had warned protesters to leave or face arrest. According to the Daily Bruin, some professors at the university had said that they were planning to be arrested alongside the students. Associate Professor of Political Science, Graeme Blair said in a text message that the professors would “support our students until they are released, and then we will be back with them to recenter attention on divestment.”

Over the course of this week, US police have been called in to disperse encampments at several universities, beginning with New York’s Columbia University on Tuesday, where protesters had occupied an academic building on campus.