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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA2020 Racial Injustice Protests

UCLA-leased Jackie Robinson Stadium facilities used by LAPD to detain protestors

The Los Angeles Police Department used the Jackie Robinson Stadium parking lot as a detainment center. Several detainees said they sat handcuffed without access to food or water for hours. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)

By Justin Jung and Genesis Qu

June 3, 2020 4:26 am

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated UCLA did not know the LAPD was using Jackie Robinson Stadium. In fact, UCLA did not know the LAPD was using Jackie Robinson Stadium to process arrests. The article also incorrectly stated UCLA will not approve future police requests to use the space as a detention center. In fact, UCLA will not approve future police requests to use the space as an arrest processing center.

This post was updated June 4 at 2:25 a.m.

Editor’s note: This article refers to protesters by their first names because of safety concerns following online harassment on Twitter.

The Los Angeles Police Department held dozens of detained protesters in the parking lot of a UCLA-leased athletics facility Monday. The detainees sat handcuffed in cramped cages inside buses for hours without access to water, food or bathrooms. 

The LAPD declined to immediately respond to repeated requests for comment Tuesday.

Rachel said she was among dozens detained by the LAPD from across the city and bussed to Jackie Robinson Stadium. Jackson said he was on one of several more buses taken to the stadium, each carrying dozens of detained protesters. They and the other protesters were kept in cages on the buses for as long as six hours, Rachel said.

“The bus that I was on had cages in them to fit two to eight people,” Rachel said. “We had no windows; I was in a cage that was locked, in the back of the bus.” 

Lisa and her friends, who are college students, said they were driving past the downtown protest when the LAPD detained them on a curfew violation, despite the driver having an essential worker exemption to the curfew.

The LAPD used the parking lot of the stadium as a command post in preparation for a planned protest in Westwood with the approval of UCLA staff, said LAPD spokesperson Mike Lopez in an emailed statement Wednesday. 

The detained protesters were among thousands protesting police brutality nationwide, following George Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis police custody.

[Related link: Westwood protest continues despite cancellation, police detain at least 10]

Detainment in the buses was both physically and psychologically taxing, especially after four hours of being handcuffed, Rachel said.

“The hardest aspect of being on the bus was the psychological element in addition to being physically restrained,” Rachel said. “Not having access to the outside world (or) knowing where we were was really challenging.”

Lisa said police officers significantly raised the volume on their radios to drown out the protesters’ yelling and banging on the sides of the bus.

“People were having panic attacks, one girl had epilepsy and another was pregnant,” Lisa said.

Lisa said the police only responded to a girl having a panic attack after several minutes of screaming for emergency medical assistance. Lisa added she is unsure what happened to the girl after she was led off the bus.

Rachel said two women in her bus needed medical attention and the detained protesters had to call 911 twice. The two women were eventually released to emergency responders after a long delay, she added.

Lisa said none of the LAPD officers took the situation seriously.

“It was all just a joke to them,” Lisa said, “While they (were) processing us, they would call out our names. They would, as a joke, start saying names like Michael Jackson, Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca. It was really just a game to them.”

After they were released, the stadium-detained protesters were not provided basic necessities or transportation home, Rachel said.

“Almost every single person that was getting released was completely stranded there,” Rachel said. “Everybody had no food, water (or) access to a cell phone. A lot of people’s phones were dead (and) there were no outlets. We were basically on a deserted road somewhere, public transportation was down (and) Ubers weren’t coming.” 

The city of LA previously operated a coronavirus testing center at the stadium, until Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Saturday that all city testing centers would close because of the ongoing protests.

Although the LA Fire Department asked permission before using the parking lot as a testing center, the LAPD used the stadium to process arrests without UCLA’s knowledge, said UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez in an emailed statement.

“Several weeks ago, LAFD asked UCLA’s permission to utilize the parking lot as a COVID-19 testing area and the university granted that permission,” Vazquez said. “However, UCLA did not receive a request from the LAPD or any other city agency to alter the use of that space last night into a ‘field jail’ for processing arrestees.”

UCLA leases the Jackie Robinson Stadium from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but the university does not own the stadium or its parking lot, Vazquez said.

UCLA officials were aware that the VA allowed the LAPD to use the stadium parking lot Monday as a staging area, according to a Wednesday statement from Chancellor Gene Block and other UCLA officials.

However, UCLA was not informed that the lot would be used to process arrests, according to the statement.

“We were never informed that it would also be used to process arrests,” the statement read. “But allowing the LAPD to use the space even for staging during these recent protests was a mistake.”

UCLA will not approve future police requests to use the space to process arrests, Vazquez said.

Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck will meet with LAPD officials Wednesday to discuss the future use of the stadium for law enforcement purposes, said Assistant Vice Chancellor of Campus Life Mick Deluca at the Undergraduate Students Association Council meeting Tuesday. 

Jackson said he was unsurprised by the conditions of his detainment at the stadium Monday. 

“I was disappointed, but not at all surprised about what the conditions were like,” Jackson said. “This is absolutely characteristic of the police and the police state that we live in. This is how they treat people once they’re detained.”

Contributing reports by Bernard Mendez, Daily Bruin staff.

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Justin Jung | Assistant Enterprise editor
Genesis Qu | Assistant News editor
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