UCLA faculty criticize decision to let LAPD use Jackie Robinson Stadium
UCLA faculty asked for transparency and policy changes in response to LAPD’s use of UCLA facilities as a detention and processing center. (Kanishka Mehra/Photo editor)
By Genesis Qu
June 8, 2020 1:45 p.m.
Dozens of UCLA faculty members wrote to the UCLA administration to express concern over the LAPD’s use of the UCLA-leased Jackie Robinson Stadium on June 1 to detain and process protesters.
In total, 59 UCLA professors and faculty co-signed a letter addressed to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Emily Carter requesting the administration give a detailed account of its communications with the LAPD as well as take concrete steps to divest from the LAPD.
The letter stated protesters were held on buses in the parking lot of the Jackie Robinson Stadium for hours without access to food, water, information or medical attention. Social distancing was not observed. Detainees were released without working phones at between 1:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. and left to find their way home under curfew conditions, the letter stated.
The faculty who signed the letter wanted to act quickly to prevent the stadium from being used again to process arrests, said Ananya Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography who led the faculty in addressing the university.
“You cannot put out solidarity statements and say that you feel the pain behind the protests if you are allowing this to happen on UCLA facilities,” Roy said.
UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said in a statement Tuesday that UCLA had no knowledge of LAPD’s use of the Jackie Robinson Stadium as a “field jail” and that it will not grant the LAPD permission to use the stadium as such in the future.
Block, along with three other vice chancellors, said in a statement Wednesday that UCLA was aware that LAPD was using the stadium but was not aware that the LAPD was processing arrests on site.
“The LAPD sought and received similar permissions from the (Veterans Affairs) to use the stadium parking lot as a staging area, which we knew about and failed to stop,” the statement said. “We were never informed that it would also be used to process arrests.”
The statement did not specify whether UCLA made an effort to prevent the LAPD from using the property. However, UCLA had the legal power to deny any third party, including the LAPD, from using the Jackie Robinson Stadium, said Gary Blasi, a law professor at UCLA.
“Under the terms of the lease, the VA can only allow others to use the property that UCLA leased with the expressed permission of UCLA,” Blasi said.
Blasi also said he found it disturbing that this happened at a stadium named after Jackie Robinson, the first African American Major League Baseball player, especially because authoritarian states have historically used stadiums as concentration camps for protesters.
Roy said the faculty are alarmed by UCLA’s lack of action following the events of June 1.
“It’s very worrisome to us that what was a massive detention and arrest processing operation was set up and run for most likely 10 to 12 hours on a UCLA facility, and the leadership didn’t know,” Roy said. “That’s a huge problem.”
In another letter responding to Block’s statement, faculty members said they were disturbed by UCLA’s intentional omission of the full truth. The faculty said UCLA administration withheld the fact that they knew the LAPD was using the site as a staging area.
The faculty said they were troubled by UCLA’s unwillingness to recognize the direct connection between the request for the staging area and the subsequent detainment of protesters.
“Are we as scholars under the impression that the police hand out lemonade to protesters at these ‘staging areas’?” the letter stated.
Active collaborations with the police contradict the statements of solidarity with protests against racial injustices that UCLA recently issued, the letter added.
The follow-up letter emphasized the need for UCLA to publish all relevant communications with the LAPD and to seek compensation if the LAPD’s use of the property was unauthorized by the university. The faculty also plans to form a Divestment Working Group that will propose policy recommendations for UCLA to fully sever ties with the LAPD.
Laura Abrams, a social welfare professor who signed the letter, said many people detained June 1 were peaceful protesters who stood up against injustices and said she was shocked that these events took place at a UCLA facility.
The LAPD said in an emailed statement that the use of the stadium was needed to process a surge of curfew-related arrests.
Abrams said the implementation of curfews has historically been used to deter protests in the U.S. and across the globe.
“(Curfews are meant) to inspire fear and to make sure that people aren’t protesting after a certain time,” Abrams said. “This is not an uncommon tactic to suppress protests.”
The Jackie Robinson Stadium was donated to the federal government specifically for the purpose of the use of wounded veterans in the late 19th century, Blasi said.
“UCLA promised as part of its lease obligations to do a lot more than they have actually done for veterans,” Blasi added. “This is injustice, piled on top of injustice, piled on top of injustice.”