Activists gather at Jackie Robinson Stadium to protest UCPD, LAPD
Activists gathered in the Jackie Robinson Stadium parking lot Sunday to criticize the lot’s use by LAPD to detain protesters June 1. Attendees laid white tiles printed with a picture of handcuffs on the pavement. (Jason Zhu/Daily Bruin staff)
Nov. 1, 2020 9:34 p.m.
This post was updated Nov. 8 at 8:13 p.m.
Dozens of activists gathered at the Jackie Robinson Stadium parking lot Sunday to criticize UCLA’s role in letting the LAPD use the lot to detain protesters in June and to protest campus policing.
Attendees heard from speakers including Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Naomi Riley, the Undergraduate Students Association Council president, and Jodi Scofield, a graduate student who said she was detained on the lot in June.
The gathering came five months after the LAPD used the UCLA-leased Jackie Robinson stadium’s parking lot on June 1 to hold protesters detained in Los Angeles during the protests in response to the death of George Floyd. Several detainees told The Bruin they were held without food or water for hours.
Ananya Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography and one of the event’s organizers, said she organized the event in part because she thinks UCLA has not given a serious apology or made any serious amends. Roy, who is also a member of the Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective, added she thinks UCLA should begin a process of accountability and repair for what happened in the stadium’s parking lot.
Many of the speakers and attendees also criticized UCLA’s involvement in the use of the stadium lot to detain protesters.
Scofield said UCLA’s response after the lot was used to detain protesters was disappointing. Scofield, who said she was one of the June 1 detainees, added that nobody from UCLA has reached out to her after the LAPD detained her on UCLA-leased property.
After the incident was made public, campus administrators published a statement clarifying that UCLA knew about the LAPD’s use of the parking lot as a staging area and was unaware of its use to process arrests. Administrators also apologized for the incident in the statement and said UCLA would no longer allow the LAPD to use UCLA property to process arrests or to use as a staging area.
“They knew that this was happening, they were caught in a million lies about authorizing the use of Jackie Robinson Stadium,” said Nathalie Dierkx, a UCLA alumna who helped organize the event. “And their response was completely useless. They clearly did not want to make amends for what actually happened.”
Riley said at the event that the No UCPD coalition, a student organization seeking to remove UCPD from the UCLA campus, formed in part because of the Jackie Robinson Stadium incident. Riley added that the coalition rejected the university’s efforts to reform UCPD – the coalition is steadfast on abolition, she said.
“We were making sure that the university wasn’t just going to sweep this under the rug,” Riley said. “Like they do all the time.”
The No UCPD Coalition, Riley said, will not stop until UCLA agrees to abolish UCPD from the UCLA campus.
“For a lot of years, student governments on campus are complicit and complacent in a lot of the police violence that takes place on our campus,” Riley said. “And I think it’s really important that we change that narrative.”
The gathering was a “stealth event,” meaning organizers did not get legal permission before gathering on the lot and setting up a microphone setup and art installations. Organizers told attendees to disperse if ordered to do so by the police.
The attendees set up a Dia De Los Muertos mural for victims of police brutality and placed around 2,000 white tiles covered with images of handcuffs on the pavement. The LA CAN Freedom Singers also performed at the event, debuting a song titled “I Can’t Breathe.”
Other speakers also outlined their goals to abolish policing both on the UCLA campus and across the greater LA area.
Abdullah, who is also a professor at California State University, Los Angeles, said public safety relies on strong communities and said she felt safer around family than around police.
Michelle Servin, a fourth-year geography/environmental studies student, said at the event that the UCPD’s disproportionate arrest of Black individuals did not make sense – although Black people make up around 3% of the UCLA population, they make up around 31% of UCPD arrests, Servin said.
A UCPD spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
UCLA spokesperson Bill Kisliuk declined to answer the Bruin’s inquiries and instead sent a letter Chancellor Gene Block sent to student leaders in September.
“Because the safety of the UCLA community is paramount, we cannot simply defund or divest from UCLA PD until there are proven and effective alternate methods for ensuring public safety,” Block wrote in the letter. “UCLA must always remain a safe place to teach, learn, live, work, research, assemble and even protest. Nonetheless, I absolutely welcome all recommendations, including those that call for foundational shifts in policing to ensure safety, respect and protection for all members of the Bruin community.”
Servin, who is also an organizer for the No UCPD Coalition, said although she lives in better conditions at UCLA than her family does, she faces a similar level of policing.
“We move away from our neighborhoods and we come into Westwood expecting that we’re going to be open to this new world for four years,” Servin said. “But instead we just come and we’re overpoliced and hypervigilized once again.”