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IN THE NEWS:

Bruins in Paris

Pro-Palestine encampment, counter-protester activity continues overnight to day 2

Tents in the ongoing UC Divest and Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA encampment sit in darkness in front of a brightly lit Royce Hall. The encampment began Thursday morning in Dickson Plaza. (Dylan Winward/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Dylan Winward

April 26, 2024 12:04 p.m.

Participants of the pro-Palestine encampment at UCLA said they spent Thursday night and the early hours of Friday morning maintaining their structures without knowing how the UCLA administration would react.

“Even though I was really, really exhausted, it was still a really nice feeling to go to sleep surrounded by people that I love and trust, knowing that we’re all here for the same cause – and that is for the people of Palestine,” said Annie, an organizer of the encampment who did not give their last name. “Sleeping outside in the cold is not nearly comparable to what’s happening in Palestine to the people of Palestine.”

The encampment began Thursday morning as the war in the Gaza Strip passed its 200th day. Around 100 students, faculty and community members slept outside Royce Hall overnight as part of the encampment, which was organized by the UC Divest Coalition and Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA. Nearly 300 attendees were present at the event’s height Thursday afternoon.

[Related: UCLA community organizes encampment in response to national call for escalation]

Annie said despite the challenges of maintaining the encampment, the protesters plan to remain in place until the UC agrees to their demands, which are to divest from companies associated with the Israeli military, cut ties with LAPD and academically boycott Israeli universities. Protesters are also calling for a ceasefire in Gaza as Israeli forces have now killed over 34,000 Palestinians since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, according to the Associated Press.

One of the challenges of maintaining the protest is not knowing how the UCLA administration would react, Annie said. However, they added that morale remains high within the camp, even though protesters are tired.

On Thursday morning, access to Royce Hall and Powell Library was restricted to those with BruinCards. Students participating in the encampment were allowed to enter Powell Library overnight to use restroom facilities by scanning their BruinCard with security staff.

Muslim community members inside the encampment gathered for morning prayer at around 5:30 a.m. Protesters in the encampment were also scheduled to participate in a reading group at around 10 a.m.

Annie said the protesters plan to schedule programming throughout Friday, including additional Islamic prayer services, a film screening and a Shabbat service. Faculty and community members will also host teach-ins about the links between Kashmir and Palestine, spacial insurgency and tenants’ rights. 

A number of senior university administrators – including Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Life Mick Deluca, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Development & Health Suzanne Seplow, Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck and Mike Cohn, the director of Student Organizations, Leadership & Engagement – visited the encampment Thursday evening and Friday morning.

UCLA Media Relations refused to comment on the administration’s plans for addressing the protests, referring the Daily Bruin only to a brief statement previously given by Mary Osako, the vice chancellor for strategic communications, Thursday morning.

The UC Board of Regents also announced Wednesday, before the encampment at UCLA began, that it would be holding a special meeting at 11:30 a.m. on Friday to “update on safety concerns on campuses.” No in-person location for the meeting was offered, and the meeting’s agenda stipulates that the session will remain closed.

“The University of California has consistently opposed calls for boycott against and divestment from Israel,” said a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President in an emailed statement. “While the University affirms the right of our community members to express diverse viewpoints, a boycott of this sort impinges on the academic freedom of our students and faculty and the unfettered exchange of ideas on our campuses.”

They added in the statement that UC tuition and fees are not used for investment purposes.

Tents surrounded by metal fences and wooden barricades sit in front of Powell Library. Protesters said they are unsure as to if the UC Board of Regents, which is holding a meeting today, will agree to their demands for divestment from Israel. (Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

Annie said the protesters were not optimistic about the outcome of the meeting because the regents have not agreed to past demands made by UC Divest protesters. However, they said the protesters were not planning to back down even if the regents ban the protest, with some protesters considering whether they are willing to risk arrest.

“The regents do not seem to really care to listen to their student body,” they said. “Especially when every single regents’ meeting for … the past several years has been met with protests to divest – and with escalations like this, I think it’s imperative for them to realize that we do, in fact, need to divest.”

Counter-protesters clashed with the encampment overnight, leading to one member of the encampment being carried away from Dickson Plaza with a heavily bandaged ankle. Annie said the encampment’s medical volunteers provided care for the injured student.

Most of the counter-protesters left by 10 p.m. on Thursday evening. In response to the clashes, UCLA officials set up metal barricades around the encampment in the evening, with a second layer of fences added early Friday morning. 

[Related: Pro-Palestine encampment features teach-ins, speeches as counter-protesters engage]

An individual waving an Israeli flag also began playing loud music from around 4:40 a.m. to around 5:30 a.m. and shouted at people inside the encampment to “wake up.” One encampment leader asked them to turn the music off, leading to light shoving, and private security personnel hired by the campus spoke to both parties. 

Annie said the protesters were not deterred by disturbances overnight, which also included a group of men waving a Brazilian flag and shouting.

“It’s ridiculous that so many outside actors came to UCLA campus last night, over the night at 4 a.m. in the morning when students are trying to sleep, to yell derogatory things at us,” they said. “People here are not deterred by the fact that they were playing that music at 4 a.m. in the morning. I honestly feel like the community here right now is stronger than ever.”

The protesters inside the encampment are also planning on hosting de-escalation workshops for participants to help prepare them for the presence of future counter-protesters, Annie said. In a Thursday morning Instagram post, SJP had told encampment participants not to engage with counter-protesters.

“We are focused on the safety of our people and our students, and so that means engaging in tactics of de-escalation,” Annie said. “Especially to protect more marginalized people in this space, like Black and brown people that have come into this space, it’s really important that we do whatever we can to keep our comrades and our students safe.”

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Dylan Winward | News editor
Winward is the 2024-2025 News editor and an Arts, Copy, Photo, PRIME and Sports contributor. He was previously the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. Winward is a third-year English and statistics student from London in the United Kingdom.
Winward is the 2024-2025 News editor and an Arts, Copy, Photo, PRIME and Sports contributor. He was previously the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. Winward is a third-year English and statistics student from London in the United Kingdom.
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