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Protesters, counter-protesters clash as they converge upon UCLA encampment

Counter-protesters waving Israeli flags in Dickson Plaza are pictured. The counter-protesters rallied against an ongoing pro-Palestine encampment that has now entered its fourth day. (Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

By Anna Dai-Liu, Catherine Hamilton, Matthew Royer, Sharla Steinman, and Dylan Winward

April 28, 2024 7:50 p.m.

This post was updated April 28 at 11:37 p.m.

For the Daily Bruin’s full coverage of the UC Divest Coalition and Students for Justice in Palestine encampment, see here.

Various groups of protesters demonstrating for Palestine and Israel clashed Sunday, leading to riot police lineups and several injuries in Dickson Plaza – where an encampment in support of Palestine has entered its fourth day.

The encampment, led by Students for Justice in Palestine and the UC Divest Coalition at UCLA, faced counter-protesters from groups supporting Israel. In response, a group led by organizations such as the Palestinian Youth Movement rallied in support of the encampment. Standing Together Los Angeles – a group of Palestinian and Israeli people in support of peace – held a simultaneous rally. 

[Related: Thousands of pro-Israel, pro-Palestine protesters demonstrate outside encampment]

The Israeli American Council’s LA branch was scheduled to host a counter-protest at 11 a.m. Sunday on the lawn across from the encampment, and participants set up a large screen and speakers between Haines Hall and Kaplan Hall. At around 10:30 a.m., protesters in solidarity with the encampment broke through barricades around the counter-protest’s setup but eventually left the area.

A small group of pro-Israel counter-protesters had also caused disturbances late Saturday evening and early Sunday morning, with some attempting to climb over the barricades around the encampment. A security guard hired by UCLA was allegedly pepper sprayed at around 8 a.m., and a demonstrator had blood on their face at around 12:30 p.m. 

Mary Osako, vice chancellor for strategic communications, said in a statement to the Daily Bruin that the university is saddened about violence that occurred early Sunday morning. She added in the statement that the university had since added more security measures and brought more safety personnel on-site.

UCLA has a long history of peaceful protest, and we are heartbroken to report that today, some physical altercations broke out among demonstrators,” Osako said in the statement. “As an institution of higher education, we stand firmly for the idea that even when we disagree, we must still engage respectfully and recognize one another’s humanity. We are dismayed that certain individuals instead chose to jeopardize the physical safety of the community.”

[Related: Counter-protester activity continues through 3rd night of pro-Palestine encampment]

During Sunday’s main counter-protest, community members – including Hillel at UCLA’s executive director Dan Gold and Undergraduate Students Association Council general representative candidate Eli Tsives – as well as officials, including Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Southwest Israel Bachar and California State Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur, spoke at the event.

In an emailed statement sent Sunday afternoon, Avital Hezkiya – the Israeli American Council Shepher Community Center & LA Donors’ Relations Coordinator – said the rally supporting Israel received a permit from UCLA to demonstrate, something that UCLA Media Relations spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez later confirmed.

Hezkiya added in the statement that multiple demonstrators supporting Israel had to receive medical attention after altercations in Dickson Plaza.

The rally in support of Israel also played loud music, including the American and Israeli national anthems. It was partially funded by a GoFundMe that had raised over $73,000 from more than 700 donations as of 6 p.m. Sunday.

Gold said in a speech at the rally that he believed the encampment was impeding the university’s educational duties, adding that the rally supporting Israel was important to show Jewish students that they are supported.

“We know that we’re on the right side of history, and we know that in the Jewish community, we accept and allow a multitude of voices and ideas and opinions, and that’s what’s made our community and our Hillel so strong,” he said in the speech.

In a statement sent via text message, Dr. Kira Stein – an assistant clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine and the chair of the Jewish Faculty Resilience Group at UCLA – said she believes there has been unequal enforcement of university policies regarding events and protests. The pro-Israel demonstration was designed to call attention to antisemitism rather than being inflammatory, she said.

“Understandably, morale among Jewish faculty has been negatively impacted due to antisemitic events happening with some of their colleagues and students,” Stein said in the statement. “We’ve decided to channel our distress over these experiences into building our community of Jewish and non-Jewish allies.”

A protester with an umbrella reading “LET GAZA LIVE” is pictured. Demonstrators from the Palestinian Youth Movement and the Palestinian Feminist Collective led a march from the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center to Royce Hall in support of the encampment. (Zoraiz Irshad/Daily Bruin senior staff)

In response to the Israeli American Council’s planned counter-protest, organizations including the PYM and the Palestinian Feminist Collective led a march from the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center to Royce Hall. Participants broke through barricades set up early Sunday morning by UCPD and facilities staff into the space where pro-Israel demonstrators were setting up.

Ayat Shalabi, a participant in the protest who is from Palestine, said they came to the rally to support students. Shalabi added that their nephew was taken hostage by Israelis over five months ago, and their family has not been able to secure his return despite paying large sums of money.

Ahmad Hasan, a UCLA alumnus and member of the PYM, said they are proud of students and community members showing up to call attention to Palestine, especially since they felt the counter-protest sought to antagonize and intimidate them.

“The community is so proud of UCLA students for standing up against genocide, for standing up against injustice,” Hasan said. “It has been a long fight. Many of these students have gone through so much, especially during finals season. But they persevered because they understand that what matters is, we have to make Palestine unavoidable.”

Graeme Blair, an associate professor of political science inside the encampment, said in a statement sent over text message that he believes counter-protesters were attempting to start conflicts with members of the encampment. Blair, a member of Faculty for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, added that he believes there is a risk of people misreading the situation and using any alleged violence as an excuse for a police shutdown of the encampment.

“I’m proud of the UCLA students in the encampment who today kept the focus on their demands,” he said in a statement sent over text message Sunday evening. “It’s these students’ discipline that kept today peaceful.”

After the counter-protest ended shortly before 1 p.m., participants began to disperse but were met by the pro-Palestine encampment supporters. UCPD officers lined up wearing riot gear near the Dickson Plaza flagpole as Palestine supporters interlocked arms on Portola Plaza, and counter-protesters waving Israeli flags surrounded them.

Police outside Pauley Pavilion also allegedly pulled a gun on an elderly man who appeared to have a sword, according to a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. The Daily Bruin was unable to verify whether he was affiliated with the protests.

Vazquez said that as of 5:02 p.m. Sunday, no arrests had been made on campus.

Demonstrators with Standing Together Los Angeles – an organization seeking to create peace between Israeli and Palestinian people – are pictured. (Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

Dozens of people from Standing Together LA also demonstrated outside Dickson Plaza. Mikey Aboutboul, a third-year ethnomusicology student who was with Standing Together LA, said his group’s demonstration was aimed at showing that not everyone is polarized, and there is some middle ground between different groups.

“We wanted to show people that Palestinians and Israelis can and do stand together for a better life with justice, freedom and equality for everyone,” he said.

Rachel Burnett, a fourth-year Middle Eastern studies and psychology student who was also with Standing Together LA, said many of the people demonstrating with protesters and counter-protesters were expressing pain, adding that her movement hoped to bring healing.

Students, community members and faculty inside the encampment Sunday are pictured. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

After the thousands of protesters and counter-protesters dispersed from Dickson Plaza, remaining members of the pro-Palestine group marched back toward the conference center, where organizers addressed the crowd.

“We showed that we are strong,” one speaker who did not give their name said. “Let this not be the last time that we defend our students, that we defend Palestine, that we defend one another.”

Contributing reports by Gabrielle Gillette, Shaanth Kodialam, Sam Mulick, Benjamin Royer, Mia Tavares, Lex Wang and Patrick Woodham, Daily Bruin staff.

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Anna Dai-Liu | Science and health editor
Dai-Liu is the 2023-2024 science and health editor and Copy staff member. She was previously a News staff writer and is currently a third-year neuroscience and comparative literature student.
Dai-Liu is the 2023-2024 science and health editor and Copy staff member. She was previously a News staff writer and is currently a third-year neuroscience and comparative literature student.
Hamilton was 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.
Hamilton was 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.
Matthew Royer | National news and higher education editor
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats and is Copy staff. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats and is Copy staff. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
Sharla Steinman | City and Crime Editor
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Dylan Winward | News editor
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
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