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Protesters sit in at Luskin Conference Center ahead of UC Regents vote on Item J1

Protesters gather outside the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center to stage a sit-in against a policy up for vote by the UC Board of Regents on Wednesday. The protesters attempted to set up inside the hotel before being forcibly removed by hotel staff. (Dylan Winward/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Catherine Hamilton

March 20, 2024 12:04 a.m.

Around 40 protesters staged a sit-in Tuesday night to call on the UC Board of Regents to vote against a policy that would prohibit University departments from making political statements.

Students and community members entered the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center around 8 p.m., before UCPD requested backup from LAPD at around 8:40 p.m. The sit-in ended minutes later after hotel staff forcibly removed the protesters from the Luskin lobby, said Anna, an organizer who was granted partial anonymity for safety reasons.

The UC Regents meet Wednesday and Thursday at the Luskin Center for their bimonthly sessions, in which they will address Item J1. The board will consider the item – which would prevent University website homepages from being used to express political views – Wednesday in a joint meeting between the Academic and Student Affairs Committee and the Compliance and Audit Committee.

Protesters brought signs with slogans such as “Blood on the UC’s hands” and “People over profit,” and they shouted chants such as “UCPD, KKK, IDF, you’re all the same” and “(Board Chair) Richard Leib, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

At least 40 police officers from multiple departments, including UCPD, LAPD and Beverly Hills Police Department, arrived at the hotel and conference center shortly after and set up barricades around its entrance. Officers wore riot helmets and carried batons and rubber bullets.

“They showed up with face shields and riot gear. They showed up with batons. They showed up with ‘less-than-lethal guns,’” Anna said. “It looks like there’s … 100 cops being called on UCLA students.” 

A UCLA spokesperson said in an emailed statement that UCPD peacefully dispersed the protest and relocated the students to an area where they were permitted to assemble. 

“Students have a right to protest in line with UCLA’s Time, Place, and Manner policies, which prioritizes the safety and well-being of everyone on campus,” the spokesperson said in an edited statement. “In this instance, however, students staged a rally, without a permit, at the Luskin Conference Center rather than at the designated protest area.”

Suzanne Seplow, the assistant vice chancellor for student development and health, spoke to protesters outside the hotel but declined to comment. 

Signs put up by protesters outside the Luskin Conference Center are pictured. (Dylan Winward/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Protesters set up on the driveway of the Luskin turnaround with the plan to remain until the end of the regents’ meetings Thursday, Anna said. They added that the protest’s goals are to call on the UC to divest from BlackRock – a company that has alleged ties to the Israeli military – and to not support the policy up for vote. 

“This attempt to silence the freedom of academics and to silence the freedom of faculty to speak out on matters that they are passionate about,” Anna said. “The bill … basically reduces the freedom of expression on college campuses.”

The UC Academic Senate released a statement Friday expressing concern with the original text of the policy, citing that it has the potential “to limit free speech and to impinge on academic freedom.” 

Ethan Friedland, a doctoral student of Near Eastern languages and cultures and student worker, said he thought the police officers were being more violent than necessary. 

“We got kicked out of the hotel. We couldn’t hold the hotel, and that’s a shame, but it’s a great illustration of who they (the regents) are and what they actually value if they’re willing to bring in riot police and brutalize 18-year-olds,” Friedland said. 

Friedland, who is also a United Auto Workers Local 2865 unit steward, said sustaining the protest was difficult because students, including himself, are taking exams during finals week. He added that many students who did attend were stressed and studying.

“They’re stressed about their exams and papers – but here they are, because they really care about the betterment of this community,” Friedland said. “They care about the innocent people being killed in Palestine, and it’s really encouraging to see so many people out here.”

Contributing reports by Dylan Winward, features and student life editor. 

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Catherine Hamilton | News editor
Hamilton is the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor. She is also a third-year gender studies and political science student minoring in professional writing.
Hamilton is the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor. She is also a third-year gender studies and political science student minoring in professional writing.
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